Why collect Bob Bruman's work?
by Susan Wiegand
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I have not only collected Bob Bruman's work for the past 15 years, but I have, through my collecting, successfully encouraged some of the most conservative persons in the Bay Area--people barely even able to conceive of art as such--to regard his work, to consider it; and who, by themselves, over time and with continued opportunity for viewing, have come around to acquiring pieces of their own.
It has been a long process. The inclination of people to decide early on what they like and don't like, and then to hold such childish judgments up as though they were wisdom, is a continued thorn in the side of every person who tries to make something honest and true.
What I find to be true is that it is unusual for a painter to paint so honestly and with such love and unselfconscious intelligence as Mr. Bruman brings to his best work. The expression is clear, complex and uncontrived. There is no reason to dissect and analyze a painting (though one might) as the paintings succeed as whole things. They are not one-liners, decorative elements or even, usually, narrow political statements. They are entities unto themselves. They have lives of their own, friends of their own. They are inconsistent and complete, like we are. They do not desire to stay with Mr. Bruman once finished. No, they want to leave.
Which explains why after 20 years of painting, hundreds and hundreds of paintings, countless shows of all sorts and sizes and in every sort of venue, Bob Bruman has no more than a handful of pieces in his possession. Perhaps 30. The rest are gone, sold, taken into homes and offices around the country and around the world, and there they pursue their independent lives. Not so independent, perhaps. They are co-dependent paintings if there ever were such a thing, wheedling their way into the lives of whoever has them, making the possessor dependent on them, insisting that the person regard them and give them love.
Paradoxically perhaps, Mr. Bruman's work is at the same time challenging to the collector and inclusive of the novice. Though many a person might disclaim and retreat--the colors too intense! the subject too angular! the paint too thick!--there is equally something about Mr. Bruman's work that allows a person who has never before brought art into their home to be able to do just that. Something not decorative, but which will more than anything else improve the quality of a room. Something neither elegant nor graceful, but whose presence imbues the air with grace and elegance. Like people who surprise us as we get to know them better and finally decide we are indeed friends and would not like to lose their company. I think it is the utter love and truthfulness, however rough and ugly love and truthfulness might sometimes be, that allows Mr. Bruman's work to be warm and enchanting even as it is challenging and substantive. Rich and complex even as it appears to be a portrait of a flower or the most simple outlines of a face.
What am I saying? Just look at the art!