Layered images and layered narrative add something extra to PrintAustin
New York-based artist Melissa Brown adds an important component to the multi-exhibition programming of PrintAustin. The linocut process is integral to these works not only as a means of production, but also as a way of seeing in what the artist calls “a multi-registered view of reality.” Brown uses multiple registration linocut to produce single unique works rather than editions. The process involves printing off of a carved slab of linoleum, then carving further into the form, rerolling with a separate color or gradient of ink, printing again on the same paper, and repeating to the desired number of layers or depth of image. At Big Medium, Brown implements the process to make curious, loose works that act on the viewer as the first layer to an unsaid narrative. These are story fragments, and looking through them feels like the soft unintentional memory recall of a lazy day, flipping back through banal moments on the road or to the nighttime hideaways that small-town high school students claim. Others take on a sci-fi or fantasy tone: a set of dark helicopters ejecting from what can only be described as the tailpipe of an industrial building; or a spooky abandoned gothic tower in a glowing green atmosphere. These could be considered jarring to the flow of the show if it were not for the even treatment of each work – all share the same low level of detail, the same quality of line and accuracy, a shared propensity for an unexpected but compelling color palette, and a value range dwelling in muted middle grays.
This is a welcome expanded view of the artist’s practice from some of the more gaudy, high-saturation works from Brown that Austin saw recently at MASS Gallery in the group show “Mons Dew.” Instead of the lifestyle commentary presented there, these works leave more to the viewer. By giving them the first layer, the artist provides a space for a multiplicity of histories and futures to be registered directly atop the image. In this way, the show at Big Medium is light and easy with just enough open-endedness, mystery, and darkness to keep the critical viewer engaged.