Born in St. Louis in 1957, Christopher French grew up in Sacramento, receiving his BA from the University of California, Davis, where he studied with Robert Arneson and Wayne Thiebaud. After graduation he focused on performance, joining the Royal Lichtenstein ¼ Ring Circus for a yearlong, 41 state, 200-performance tour. Resettling in Oakland, he returned to painting, working in a representational style inspired by the work of Philip Guston.
French’s approach to painting changed when, after moving to New York in 1986, he found a book of Braille paper on the street. “At first only the vigorous textures of the paper caught my eye, but I quickly became fascinated with the textual as well as the textural potential of my materials.” For more than a decade he used Braille paper to create abstractions that simultaneously connote harmony and contradiction by balancing the immediacy of sight with the tactility of touch. More recently, his paintings construct intricate compositions based on the diverse beauty of natural patterns and systems.
French’s work has been widely exhibited nationally and abroad. Museum collections include the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Hirshhorn Museum of Art, National Museum of American Art, and Weatherspoon Museum. French has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Joan Mitchell Foundation, and Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County. In 1996 he spent 6 months working in Paris on a Cité Internationale des Arts Residency.
French is also an art critic, curator, and teacher. His criticism and social commentary has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, ARTnews, Flash Art, Art Papers, The Journal of Art, and other publications. He has authored or contributed essays to numerous monographs and exhibition catalogues, and is a past president of the United States chapter of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA). He currently lives and works in Long Island, New York.