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Roger Brown (Primary)

Plants That Glo in The Dark Tra-La

20th century
Medium & Support
Oil and phosphorescent paint on canvas
Support: 48 x 72 in.
Chicago Imagism
Object Type
Credit Line
Museum purchase with funds provided by The Chaddick Foundation, the 2006 Collectors' Circle, Mary Powell, R. K. Benites & Dr. Michael J. Teaford, and Delphia Allen Lamberson
Accession Number
In Copyright
© The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Brown family. Courtesy of Kavi Gupta.

5 rows of stylized plants, with 11 figures between plants. Painting glows faintly in the dark, the glowing areas between the plants are reminiscent of the cooling towers at nuclear power plants.

Label History

An alternating pattern of tobacco plants and stormy horizons emits an otherworldly glow in Brown’s Plants That Glo in the Dark Tra-La. Notably the only known work Brown created with phosphorescent, or glow-in-the-dark, paint, the plants and horizon between them glow ominously and unnaturally when the paint is activated. Always interested in the tension between nature, culture, and especially the implications of nuclear threats, the artist was fascinated in the 1980s with genetically engineered plants, including bioluminescent tobacco plants. Brown’s playful title and the astonished figures suggest that humankind’s attempts to alter nature are both entrancing yet foolish. Associated with the Chicago Imagists, a group of artists who looked to daily life and pop culture for inspiration, Brown additionally drew upon his Southern upbringing, expansive folk art collection, and artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Grant Wood.

Exhibition Title: Asheville Art Museum: An Introduction to the Collection
Label Date: 2021
Type: Catalogue Entry
Written by: Hilary Schroeder


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