Through his characteristic rugs designed in the shape of iconic CDs like Lil’ Kim’s Hard Core, Outkast’s The Love Below, and Sade’s Love Deluxe, Toronto-based artist Sean Brown invites us to reminisce about the vibrant materiality of the early 2000s. “There’s just some things I can’t let die,” says Brown “I refuse to just let them go to the wayside—the Sean Johns and the Rocawears. I can’t allow them to just be forgotten about.” But his deep respect for the ever-glorious 106 & Park era of Black art is far from all-defining. “I really don’t have an interest in recreating history,” says Brown, “but I do think that elements of what was so magical then could be brought into the future.” The result is a wide-ranging and impressive body of work that spans from creative direction for artists like Diddy, SZA, and Daniel Caesar to interior design pieces that allude to neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. Rather than mere nostalgia, Brown offers an unwavering celebration of Blackness that transcends era.
Though his line of highly sought-after CD rugs represents an age of tangibility—think flip phones, floppy disks, and Discmans—Brown’s interest in interiors is highly conceptual. “I’m interested in reimagining and reworking things,” he reveals, “taking things out of context and looking at them differently.” Inspired by Andy Warhol’s approach to the banal, Brown enjoys “taking a common idea apart [and] putting that little twist on it that flips the whole thing on its head.” As a result, his interiors line will soon include a full-length mirror that gives the illusion that it’s melting onto the floor and a mylar balloon–shaped light fixture that appears to have haphazardly floated toward the ceiling. “To me, interior design is missing that touch of Blackness,” he says, “that touch of what we come with,” which is why he also has an interior design print magazine in the works, slated to be released at the end of the year.
For Brown, design is about “trying to enhance your quality of life, trying to use objects that function to better your environment, because I know how much that does for productivity and for people’s art [and] their work.” Dissatisfied with the quality of developments in the city, his newest project, Hypatia, involves injecting the beauty of Blackness into architecture, urban planning, and interior design. “We give so much to culture and the world as young people, as Black people, as people of colour, and when things are created, they’re created without us in mind and without us being a part of a conversation. We need to infiltrate these spaces and get a seat at the table.”
Curves by Sean Brown
Ultimately, the artist’s fondness for ingenuity, combined with his deep respect for history, results in a body of work that is aesthetically innovative, wide-ranging, and intertextual. Brown combines a conceptual approach with a reverence for the past, and what results can only be described as timeless.