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Psychic Forms 

Los Angeles | January 28th - March 25th  2023
Opens January 28th 12-5pm


Emma Gray HQ is delighted to present new paintings by Heather Brown in her first exhibition with the gallery. Brown paints patterns emerging from the depths of inchoate fantasy, coaxing them into existence through a series of painterly events that clot and accumulate together. The resulting patterns are architectural and expansive, vulnerable and tactile, hermetic and sensual. There is a familiarity to them, much of which emanating from early American modernism as it exhaled into the 21st century. Which is not to say that Brown’s paintings are retreads, for they embody the anxiety of the 21st century painter who remains a scout: Each of her paintings unfold according to their own logic through material negotiation; through additive and subtractive means to see what she (and the viewer) has not seen before.

To this end, Brown traffics in elemental shapes and line work that proliferate and jostle, that collectively angle towards an enigmatic register. On the verge of disruption, the shapes are animated by meandering pacing and humanistic contours; their fluctuations, placements, overlaps, and corrections resist a formulaic rhythm. This is the residue of Brown’s probe through the muck, or what she calls “dumb ideas,” as she steers her paintings into substantiality. As such, dumb ideas are the compost of substance; they inform her prodigious formal vocabulary that builds her various compositions. They tend to be spatially flat, but there are psychological reserves, or vanishing points, underlying them, much of which escape facile detection.

An example can be made of Untitled (Terracotta), 2022, a painting almost entirely suffused in earthen red and pale pink; it features three stacked pairs of tetragons, each one barely symmetrical. Inside and out of them, a profusion of diamonds, circles, triangles, and scallops collide and tesselate; they collectively assemble and adorn something like a ceramic tile floor that had been repaired and redesigned over time. The impetus or references for such a picture are mysteries, but one emotionally reads what it gives away: A picture of an aesthetic order that Brown shepherded from point A to B, its ruptures and maneuvers holistically integrated into the whole. There is an intensely vulnerable dimension here, and in all of Brown’s paintings, that allow for something surprising to emerge; something that makes an otherwise static pattern enliven into movements or animated perceptions.

While her paintings demure emotionally, their vulnerable and tactile qualities suggest the aforementioned reserves; they work in tandem with her mid-20th century palette, her ridged surfaces, and range of materials (oil, acrylic, charcoal, canvas, MDF, wood panel) to create a determinedly prosaic sort of painting, belied, even if faintly, by a certain mysticism. Perhaps this underpins Brown’s idea that her paintings, in all of their variations, are pieces of herself, breaking off into the world and finding their places in a larger pattern, beginning lives of their own.

Text by Max Maslansky

Heather Brown’s solo exhibitions include Bedfellows; Monte Vista Projects, Los Angeles, Ruins; Carter & Citizen, Los Angeles, Thank You For Your Childhood; Parker Jones, Los Angeles, Drawings; Parker Jones, Los Angeles, and Heather Brown: New Paintings; Black Dragon Society, Los Angeles. She received an MFA from UCLA and a BA from UCSB. She lives and works in Los Angeles.