Canada is pleased to announce Paper Fortune a solo show by Melissa Brown. Ms. Brown is a printmaker who makes large-scale woodcuts with images collected from lottery Tickets, money, and supermarket tabloids. Ms. Brown’s pieces are funny, punchy and curiously abstract, sharing the fringe visionary qualities of such American artists as Alfred Jensen, Charles Burchfield and the creator of the Mad magazine fold-in Al Jaffe.
Each one of Ms. Brown’s images is unique; she paints a light under painting on sheet of paper and then prints on top, creating subtle shifts in palate and atmosphere. The wood plates she uses are often very large and need to be pressed outside with a stream roller (!), as conventional presses are not large enough. The prints range from straight satirical images of dollar bills warning of the perils of corporate greed to multifaceted abstractions based on flattened out origami. The weird folded concoctions Ms. Brown chooses are often mysterious and apply to chance, fortune telling or multi-plane geometry. Two examples are the absurdly named hexa hexa flexagon, used by mathematicians to demonstrate the principle behind the Mobius strip or the more familiar cootie catcher, used to catch cooties and tell fortunes on playgrounds. The result is multifaceted images that are giddily kaleidoscopic in feel, and completely stoned as strategy for creating abstraction.
Ms. Brown intensifies the pop-mysticism by using cartoony and loud lottery tickets as an image bank for her abstract mandalas. The colorful tickets are full of dizzyingly seductive symbols, offering themselves up as magical gateways to fortune. There is a homely sense of power and optimism in the small act of choosing numbers, a loved ones birthday or a simple hunch, in the hopes of getting them right and the hitting the jackpot. It is the confluence of luck, yearning, randomness and a shared cultural experience that makes playing the lottery so appealing. Melissa brown celebrates the silliness, seriousness, mystery and ritual of this act. Homespun conviction and high-minded heuristics collide in Melissa Browns prints. She celebrates the human need to pick through the worldly maze of signs and symbols, the forces beyond our control, in hopes of outfoxing the universe, because as the New York lottery puts it: “Hey, you never know”.