Karen Hochman Brown’s Digital Playground

Karen Hochman Brown, Digital Playground, Photo courtesy of the artist and TAG Gallery

Climb into this Digital Playground

Written by Genie Davis
At TAG Gallery through February 12th, Karen Hochman Brown’s Digital Playground is another masterful step in the artist’s immersive photographic work. Her digitally manipulated images are fierce in color and delicate in pattern, exotic but meditative as she highlights, twists, reflects, and recreates mysterious and magical geometric shapes filled with light.

Her ability to weave photographic images into illuminated patterns that recall stained glass, kaleidoscopes, and mandalas began with a childhood delight in pop culture and geometric abstraction, and through her discoveries of mathematics and the creative power of a Mac computer, has grown exponentially from there.

Past exhibitions have featured floral images, hung works on fabric unfurling like banners, and imprints with added dazzle when applied to aluminum. Describing herself as “always a perfectionist,” she has found a route to accuracy through computer creation and achieved the complete capability of creating her work beyond the screen and onto fabric as well as prints, and even as a jigsaw puzzle here.

Her “Twisting Tapestry” works at TAG continues to explore the presentation of her images on fabric, creating soft, surreal, and surrounding art. Filling one full gallery wall, seven large-scale hung works play with shades of violet, indigo, gold, bronze, green, and aquamarine, like windows into the soul. They spiral and twist, the colors somehow both dazzling and soothing, as the visual texture of the work reaches beyond the fibers of the fabric. The twisting spirals remind the viewer of double helixes, spun DNA, dream patterns, and the whirling shadows of dancers. There is an alchemic energy to them.

The artist explores other presentations for her digital art here, too. Along with the tapestries, she includes moving works, animated pieces in riveting patterns and pulsating color, in digital picture frames. There are archival prints, and a puzzle.

Some pieces are subtle, others bolder. Lime green and violet vividly dominate in “Rainbow Tapestry,” and “Running Squared,” while her “Pick-Up Sticks Chaos” and “Pick-Up Sticks Order” are similar in palette but more muted, transitory, and alien.

Consistently, the artist reimagines the world as through a swirling kaleidoscope, refocusing its light and shapes, until she strikes chords of beauty. Her utilization of precise fractal computer software allows her to achieve multiple dimensions, forms, and layers in her work. Her geometric precision reflects, distorts, and collects, allowing viewers to wander through a collection that is both completely and rivetingly entertaining and as lushly realized as a Van Gogh.

Overall, her work here is a marked shift from past exhibitions, creating new forms with the same ease and grace as she previously focused on mandala-like shapes. In pieces such as “Flowing Contrast,” “Stark Contrast,” and “Structured Contrast,” the viewer sees her most mandala-inspired visions. These works, displayed on one gallery wall, are less colorful in hue, with subtle purple edging into dark blues and blacks. There is a sense of the highly spiritual, reminiscent of inchoate religious icons, in these images.

But much of her work here, including her largest works on fabric, embody something entirely new, evoking that sense of dance and full motion within their virtual intimacy. Smaller works such as “Slot Canyon,” also exemplify this newer direction for the artist.

While her process continues to utilize the digital, her ability to shift, manipulate, and redefine shadows, light, colors, and layered stacks grows with each exhibition. Her fascinating illusion of depth feels almost musical, as if the viewer, and of course the artist herself, could hear the work emerging from its many manipulated reflections, singing of color and repeated pattern – like musical notes.

There is also of course an inherent playfulness in all her work, as in the grouping of her video works at TAG, and the jigsaw puzzle set up on a table in the middle of the gallery. Both also add to the interactive expression of her work. 

In short, while Digital Playground is a continuation of Hochman Brown’s riveting digitally based art, it is also a new journey for it, and one in which the viewer should revel in immersing.

TAG Gallery is located at 5458 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036; gallery hours are Wednesday-Sunday 1 to 7 p.m.

Virtual Artist Talk February 8th at 7pm: Presenting Digital Art: Karen Hochman Brown and J.T. Burke

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