Karen Hochman Brown at TAG Gallery


Rakeem Cunningham TAG Gallery (1)
Karen Hochman Brown, Anonymous@theBeach, TAG Gallery; Photo credit Rakeem Cunningham

Anonymous@theBeach is the perfect summer exhibition

TAG Gallery, Los Angeles
through July 6th.

Written by Genie Davis
With a mix of digitally-manipulated images, video, and an immersive interactive installation, Hochman Brown creates lush, painterly images using a graphic synthesizer software program. The virtual paintings and video footage she creates here are aglow with rich pastel color, as if infused with summer sunlight reflecting and refracting the light on the sea. Backgrounds and foregrounds merge, creating chameleon-like images in flowing, beautiful digital work.

The artist explains her long-term obsession with people-watching at the beach, culled from childhood beach visits in Santa Barbara.

“Of course, I, too, am exposing myself to those who might want to ogle me, yet I do not feel as though I am being observed. I am just one of many, enjoying private moments in a very public place. At the shore, I am able to escape the many social norms that confine my behavior. It is the water and the salt air and the sand between my toes that allow me to literally and figuratively strip away my bonds and be free of the mask of daily life,” she explains. “I return to a mental space closer to my natural inclinations. In Anonymous@theBeach, I explore the paradox of seeing and being seen by the multitudes, while still maintaining a sense of privacy.”

Like Hochman Brown’s vivid, stained-glass-like kaleidoscopic mandala works, Anonymous@theBeach is based in photography and manipulated in the computer. However, it’s conception is the only similarity it bears to her previous works.

She describes her mandala images as distorting and reflecting a single-subject photograph “in ways that emphasize color, pattern and the shape of natural forms. They are rooted in nature and geometry. The actual pixels of the digital photography are present, albeit somewhat altered, duplicated, and rearranged.”

In comparison, Anonymous@theBeach uses photographs as a reference for the computer to recognize, and create something new. Hochman Brown relates “The compositions are scenes from life, using figures to set a mood and tell a story. I weave several different sources into most of these pieces, creating compositions from various photographs.”

The software she uses, Synthetik Studio Artist, takes “information from a reference photograph, and synthesizes it into a new version of that reference. The way I use it is to have the computer apply individual brushstrokes that conform to my instructions. Each stroke creates new pixels on the canvas. My original photos are not present in the finished work.”

Rakeem Cunningham TAG Gallery (5)
Karen Hochman Brown, Anonymous@theBeach, TAG Gallery; Photo credit Rakeem Cunningham

The works evoke the paintings of Seurat or Monet, while staying entirely contemporary. Much like one’s view of the beach on a hot summer day, eyes blurry from salt water and sunscreen, these images offer a delightful impressionist experience of beach life, as well as a look at beachgoers, their figures shimmeringly camouflaged by and merged with the landscape they inhabit.

Hochman Brown’s fondness for the playful beach life she enjoyed as a child have metamorphosed to some extent into a more meditative experience, which she says was the mood from which this series originated.

“My first piece related to this series goes back to college, and was in fact a watercolor. The assignment was to create a painting with 100 figures in it. I assembled photographs from magazines to use as reference for a panoramic piece of people enjoying the seaside, interspersed with beach umbrellas,” the artist says. “This began an obsession to find better imagery to someday recreate the piece, which never happened. Over the years though, I have continued to photograph people on the beach, enjoying themselves while oblivious to my observation.”

The exhibition’s most seminal element is perhaps its interactive one. Instagram-ready, a large scale, abstracted image of a day-at-the-beach serves as a backdrop with playful props such as a sun hat and mock cell phone, as well as physical recreations of pixilated “black out” squares and black bars. All are provided to offer participants the ability to create public images privately: recognition and anonymity both wrapped up at this blissful beach.

The artist will hold a walk-through at the gallery on June 29th at 1 p.m.

Tag Gallery
5458 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 90036

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