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Art Review: Heather Brown at Parker Jones

November 18, 2010 |  8:30 pm

Heather Brown's paintings look as if they have lived hard and are still going strong. At Parker Jones Gallery, each of the L.A. artist's six abstract canvases appears to have survived a past filled with too many misadventures to remember. But none seems worse for the wear. Heather Brown Dream Telling Pie-in-the-sky idealism gives way to seasoned pragmatism in these down-to-earth works, which are all the more poignant -- and potent -- for replacing sanguine utopianism with a bittersweet blend of can-do optimism and don't-bother fatalism.

The simple structures of American Minimalism and midcentury Modernist architecture form the backbone of Brown's geometric compositions. But the perfect circles, sturdy squares, rigorous symmetry and squeaky-clean finishes of those idealized styles are nowhere to be found in Brown's handmade art. In her loose yet high-strung works, everything is off-kilter and out-of-whack -- not exactly wrong, but certainly not upright, meticulously measured, thoroughly pre-planned or tastefully balanced.

Brown's surfaces are variously roughed-up. She paints in layers, sanding away mistakes but leaving ghostly traces visible. Her palette is nothing special, mostly primaries and secondaries, with black, white and pink also playing into the mix. Never straight from the tube, her colors are wonderfully sullied-shaded and softened so that they recall sun-bleached stucco and the comforts of old jeans and flannel pajamas. Heather Brown You MayLie

Brown's range is impressive. Decorative brickwork and wildly patterned fabrics are evoked by such 6-foot-square paintings as "You May Lie," "Dream Telling" and "Tower." "Dark Matters" is a figurative picture gone bad, overtaken by a hallucinatory whirlpool of renegade triangles. The two smallest paintings, both untitled, are dense and conflicted, their relentlessly reworked surfaces giving form to a lifetime of decisions whose consequences can only be known in retrospect. 

-- David Pagel

Parker Jones Gallery, 8545 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (213) 618-6464, through Dec. 4. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Images: Top, Heather Brown, "Dream Telling;" bottom, Heather Brown, "You May Lie." Credit: Parker Jones Gallery