The Olga Korper Gallery presents a new series of work by contemporary painter John Brown.
John’s method requires painstaking layers of oil paint applied to panel and then stripped away, offering images that begin as figurative and have been slowly abstracted through his archaeological painting process. Beneath the rich texture and colour of John’s work there has always been a conceptual underbelly which speaks loudly of contemporary issues. This time, the paintings undeniably recall a world of Big Brother surveillance technology: cell towers, satellites, microphones, bombs, and borders. A shadowed world not so far from where we sit today, with tape over the cameras on our laptops and jokes about the NSA that become less funny and more serious as the concrete foundations of privacy degrade.
This exhibition, on view from November 18th until December 21st, showcases two parallel suites of paintings in conversation with one another. “5 Attempts to Make a Painting of Contemporary Anxieties” are, as described, a set of five paintings rife with modern messages and political concerns. Images we’ve seen on the screen are rendered in paint: the towering wall that can only ever keep us in or shut us out. Is the wall our haven, or our ghetto? Sinister wings spread beneath the lectern as a demagogue grows in popularity and his voice is heard across the world. Building-shaped bombs drop down onto cities, the weight of bricks raining down intolerance, racism, and yet another mass shooting erupts across our screen, in our back yard, and the communal anxiety pervades.
“8 Paintings of Thoroughly Researched People” are rooted in diagnostic photos from medical textbooks. Now an outdated practice, but here they reflect the concept of ‘We the People’, the ones subjected to the surreal dystopian characteristics of life in this future. Contemporary anxieties that somehow include being inundated by fake news, our data gathered and our personalities monetized. These paintings point a finger at the electrical charge in the air making everyone’s hair stand on end. They approach the dark side of technology and poke it with a long stick: the growing fear of political power, the resurgence of neo-fascism and intolerance, the decline of diversity. The utopian era of new tech as the great gift-bringer has been superseded by targeted advertising and informational theft. In this series of eight paintings we see ourselves reflected, our privacy peeled away, our vulnerabilities exposed, our humanity redacted. We, the People, we the researched, the advertised, the monetized. We the anxious.
The formal opening will be held on Saturday November 18th from 2-5pm, the artist will be present.