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Heather Brown’s Bedfellows is just this side of polite—the drawings at least. The ink on paper works giving the show its title succeed in a weird and curious way; four large, patterned oils on canvas, by contrast, squarely occupy the realm of politeness, a hair shy of out-and-out “zombie formalism.”
The color palette of Brown’s paintwork is a modestly aged one, appreciably (sometimes), like the car paint of a John Chamberlain sculpture—not enough to save from decorative banality, but a step in a better direction. A prior solo show, Ruins, explored the timeworn to greater effect, riffing on false antiquing as a perhaps ironic symbol of value. Dan Levenson explored a similar falsehood recently at Susanne Vielmetter: a manufactured patina giving rise to an impression of the historical, and its attendant weights and measures. Levenson prizes narrative, Brown a more streamlined presentation of the artifact. Both beg the question of why the present needs more history, or why art needs fictitious historical distance.
Brown also indulges in another, more impressive impression: cubist-like line drawings reminiscent of Picasso’s, depicting figures in knotted and varied coital positions. The drawings are clever, engaging, and strange, particularly the opus of Bedfellows VI (2015), where eyes tumble away from faces and limbs end up in consternated mouths. A painting featured on Monte Vista’s webpage moving in the same direction (Untitled, 2015), is, unfortunately, nowhere to be found in the show itself.
Bedfellows runs October 10-November 1, 2015 at Monte Vista Projects (5442 Monte Vista Street, Los Angeles, CA 90042).