Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Panoramic View: Brain Fruit

Jackie Brown, Brain Fruit II: An Excited State, 2010,
various materials, filled-space installation
It's difficult to walk by this exhibition without stopping for at least a moment; you can't help but wonder what was going on in Jackie Brown's own brain when you happen upon the phrase "Brain Fruit." Add to that the bright green and orange rods, grayish blobs, and the delicious strangeness of the exhibition and it's impossible not to venture into the Constance & Hennessy Project Space to take a look around.

Once you've entered the newly transformed gallery, you feel a little like you've stepped into the middle of a collection of giant neurons--hence the "brain" part of the title. Of course, this is a piece of contemporary art, so it isn't quite that literal and it definitely isn't that simple. While Brown has created something like a system of neurons, the forms she has created follow no natural schema. Whereas neurons are spindly columns with organically shaped tendrils (or "dendrites" to the scientifically minded among you), Brown's forms have dripping, irregular bases that support textured blobs that seem to have sprouted sharp, geometric rods. Yes, Brown has created a vaguely biological system that she wishes to be understood as inter-connected, but the piece does not address neurology exclusively--at least, not as it applies to individual brains.

Brown, instead, is interested in creating a depiction of collective consciousness that ripens and decays--like fruit--and transforms into something new. This interest can be seen in the many variations of Brown's main forms that appear throughout the gallery. Though all include basic parts (the blob, the stem, and the rods) no two pieces in the installation are identical. Some create complete systems within themselves while the orange rods on the others spread out in different directions, as if seeking a connection. As with human consciousness, the potential connections between each piece of the installation hold a vast potential for change--whether for good or ill.

Though Brown has expressed her interest in collective consciousnesses and the potential for change, the materials of the work and her own process for installing the piece in new venues suggests a more personal interpretation. Brown notes, “I intend for the work to suggest perpetual mutation as if ripening and rotting systems have been cross-wired and are melding into new growths.” The word "suggest" is especially telling as, though her forms do appear to drip, they are rigid sculptures that remain fixed in one spot for the duration of each exhibition.

The piece changes only when it is installed in a new space and only when Ms. Brown is available to install it. The potential for change in the work, therefore, would all be for naught but for Brown's guiding hand---and electric drill. In a sense, she creates a new web of consciousness each time she installs the exhibition--one that is constructed according to her whim. Organic though her forms may seem, Brown's process (which involves the use of molds and painstaking detailing) is carefully controlled and far from spontaneous. Each iteration of the installation is Brown's response to a new space. So, while it is certainly valid to read the piece as a metaphor for society's collective consciousness, it also serves as a window into what happens in Brown's own mind when she is faced with a creative challenge.

"Panoramic View" is a series of posts dedicated to stepping back and looking at exhibits at the DCCA in their entirety.

Brain Fruit II: An Excited State will be on display in the DCCA's Constance S. & Robert J. Hennessy Project Space through April 17th.

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