KANSAS is pleased to present Palisades, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Melissa Brown. Opening February 25, the works will be on view through March 31.
Melissa Brown is known for her wide-ranging conceptual projects. In previous work, Brown employed generative card game iconography to create tabloid headlines, predicted the lottery by performing new age systems of sacred geometry on stage, and repurposed banknote imagery; at the heart of her recent practice is an eclectic blending of traditional printmaking techniques with contemporary painting styles used to generate otherworldly landscapes. Her newest body of work explores the rich legacy of the Hudson Palisades.
The Palisades Interstate Park, characterized by a stark topography of towering, walled cliffs that evocatively mirror the skyline of New York City, renewed her interest in observational landscape painting. She returned to the site again and again over the course of a year, gradually assembling a portrait of the area. Using ‘markers’ that refer to points on a trail map, the abstract paintings create a visionary parallel between real space and gallery space in the way imagery is discovered, processed, made and rediscovered.
Central to the exhibition is an exploration of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon that seeks to find meaning in random stimuli. In Palisades, pareidolia manifests in the form of anthropomorphic and multi-facetted rocks and plant life unique to the region. In the paintings, these elements are transformed into resident, totem-like characters, their weathered faces suggesting the area’s ancient geologic past, while simultaneously underscoring the region’s urbanized present. The works thus become suffused with fanciful allusions to the ghosts and vestigial presences of former inhabitants of the area.
The works in Palisades also experiment with the notion of time and viewing speed through the use of graphic techniques with three levels of construction. Drawing inspiration from Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, the ecstatic gradients of Deborah Remington, pedestrian painting forms such as touristic plein air kitsch, and the surf and skate graphics of Jim Phillips, Brown has devised a highly stylized means of making sublime landscape paintings near a socially displaced residential area. The works (on raw canvas rather than Brown’s usual preference for aluminum supports) begin with loose under-painting using airbrush and dyes to emphasize the weave of the canvas and establish an atmospheric, sun-infused ground. This delicate tonal haze serves as a foil to the coarse-cut, thick layers of over-painting and stenciling used to evoke Paleolithic, geologic forms. The imagery presents a reverse dichotomy of rural exploration vis-à-vis urban expansion. Instead of looking outwards towards opportunity – untamed, unmanned, American wilderness – the views here look back onto the distant metropolis: denoting the nearby escape as a colorist, van-painting inversion of the Hudson River School tradition.
Melissa Brown received a BFA in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1996 and an MFA from Yale University in 1999. Her work has been exhibited at Art In General, New York; Artist Space, New York; Badlands at Mass MoCA, MA; Kenny Schachter / ROVE, London; Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, Sue Scott Gallery, New York and ZieherSmith Inc., New York, among others. Her last solo exhibition Paper Fortune was shown at CANADA, New York. She has received grants from Artist Space, CUNY, and a scholarship to the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. Her projects have been featured in Performa 07, in the Cabinet Magazine Stamp Book and SculptureCenter, Queens. Her performance How To Win The Lottery was included in the 2009 Nuit Blanche Contemporary Art Festival in Toronto, ON.
This is Melissa Brown’s first exhibition of painting since 2008. She lives and works in New York City.
For additional information, please contact Matthew Flaherty at KANSAS by calling +1(646) 559-1423 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org