Heather Brown: "Thank You for Your Childhood" at Parker Jones

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Tower2
2010
Heather Brown
Oil on canvas
72″ x 72″
Photo: courtesy Parker Jones

Architectural forms, geometric shapes, and linear designs overlap and merge in a series of new oil on canvas paintings by Los Angeles artist Heather Brown. A modernist mood prevails in Brown’s abstraction, evoking the lyricism of Klee in one painting, the haphazard structure of Benjamin in the next. Yet Brown also creates an architectural twist on Pattern and Decoration painting, as the shapes that populate these works at times reference architecture and decorative concrete blocks (if there is such a thing). The intricate layering found in Brown’s larger works such as Dream Telling and Tower (all works 2010) suggest the sensation of depth, but the physicality and chalky texture of the work reinforce the flatness of the canvas, preventing the viewer from fully entering into this imaginary space. Instead, the canvases act as barricades; the painterly brush stroke confined within sharply delineated forms heightening the barrier-like quality of the works. In series of smaller untitled paintings, Brown explores the modernist grid to continue her exploration of depth–or lack thereof.

Brown thanks us for our childhood in the title of her show, but her technique implies our incapacity of truly being able to recapture these early experiences; the artist’s rigorous process of masking, sanding, and reworking is suggestive of rehashing past episodes altered by today’s emotion. An untitled work, broken with blackened lines into an irregular grid, becomes an abstract storyboard, implying both the passage and inconsistencies of time and memory, as shapes shift and mutate from one box to the next. In another painting, Dark Matters, a single chair sits in a darkened interior, its back to the viewer. Next to the empty chair hints of a still-life emerge, a tipped-over vase next to a plate are situated adjacent to other less recognizable details, hidden under swirling layers of brightly colored yet translucent triangles. Once again, Brown purposefully creates an obstacle that prevents our ability to fully enter the work and brings to mind how the fragments of our memories obscure our present reality.