Botanic Geometry with Karen Hochman Brown
through April 6
Crain Art Gallery, Crowell Public Library, San Marino
By Kathy Zimmerer
Akin to looking through a kaleidoscope, Karen Hochman Brown’s deconstructed flowers printed on aluminum unfold and expand, revealing and obscuring colors and shapes. Each one is modeled after a flower, but these beguiling images are so much more, as pattern and abstraction kicks in and layer after layer of brilliant color outlines the edges and margins.
Hochman Brown manipulates the images on the computer to create the most vivid and three-dimensional image. She prints them in a process called dye-sublimation aluminum, where the image is printed with dyes that are heat sensitive on a carrier sheet. The dyes are then covered with a resin coating on an aluminum panel. Since Hochman Brown loses so much in translation in term of color when transferring from the computer to the print, this is process she uses to intensify and replicate her original brilliant colors.
In Fiesta Rose, she builds each layer with glowing yellows, pinks and whites, topped off by the rotating center of the flower that is edged by gold, rose, and crimson. Like a pinwheel, the layers circulate and overlap, creating complexity and intricate patterns. The edges of the flower are anchored by circular shapes and organic bulbous images, as if the flower would spin into the air if released. In Begonia of the Valkyries, the sensation of spinning bits of glass increases, as the pattern is magnified and overlapping. Pink and green petals interlock and rotate in a ceaseless changing pattern. The shapes change and to create another cascade of petals that holds the jewel like image in place. This richly observed flower has tiny details that delineate the flower, making it a fantastical visual poem.
In Oyster Mushroom, she uses monochromatic browns and grey and repeats the kaleidoscope pattern in rows. Each one is like a snowflake, completely different in pattern and image, with intricate centers and layers. Passion Tendril Vessel also has a unique orientation as it looks like it is part of an illusionistic bowl as the sides of the image bend with the circle. The shell pink and green are interwoven in a dazzling pattern that is slightly out of focus to conform to the shape of the vessel, the whole is framed by an organic curve. Another interesting take on botany is her print, Fallen Frond, as the lines in the image become like rope, with the rotating shapes that are interwoven like a textile, where a continuous thread links all the shapes together. Shades of green, pink and a gold glow in an intricate pattern of lines and curves. While using similar subject manner of botanical plants, she does construct each image with an individual twist, including this spinning and muscular take on a discarded palm frond.
She imbues each of her prints with a geometric precision and symmetry, much as nature creates an effortless and sublime balance in the natural world. Influenced by the vivid gardens and dreams of her childhood, she recreates these revolving and fantastical botanical specimens with digital tools while still preserving the unique beauty of nature.