When Jill Hadley Hooper, ace director of the Ironton Gallery, first told me about Mind Over Matter: Teresa Booth Brown, I knew I wanted to catch it, because I admire Brown’s abstract paintings — which were what I was expecting to see. But it turns out that this elegant and ambitious undertaking is instead made up of Brown’s rarely seen drawings.
The show includes more than eighty works, which Brown chose from the more than 600 she’s done over the past five years. For most, like “Glass Legs,” she selects a found book page that strikes her as being visually interesting and evenly covers the page with graphite. Using an eraser, she then removes the graphite in places to make various shapes, with the erased areas serving as the drawing’s formal structure. The process is a kind of reverse drawing. Brown explains that she is guided in what to erase by the pre-existing shapes on the found pages, meaning that each drawing has a composition that emerges from the particular page on which it’s been done.
A handful of Brown’s drawings have been created in other ways. For the “Erased Catalogue” series, she skipped the graphite and simply selectively erased certain printed images. In the “Money Series,” she used more traditional mark-making, with gouache and pencil covering parts of the defunct pieces of currency.
Stylistically, these drawings make reference to key moves in the history of modern art, in particular dada and constructivism from a century ago. Brown confirms that she’s been influenced especially by dada, but she sees her work as being the product of many other sources as well.
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The drawings in Mind Over Matter aren’t directly related to her paintings, serving neither as preparatory sketches nor studies, and I could see no real connection between them, though Brown can. As each emerges from its own medium, with Brown addressing drawing in one way and painting in another, she reveals her sophisticated understanding of both.
Interestingly, none of these drawings are for sale, which makes an important point about Ironton: It’s the kind of place where an artist can present work with no financial upside for the space, which is more like a museum than a gallery. Sadly, that’s all ending in a few months, as Ironton will shut down its gallery and hand the keys to the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. (Ironton Studios will carry on as before, however.) The loss of Ironton is a major hit to the exhibition scene, since so many memorable shows have been presented there over the past ten years.
Mind Over Matter runs through October 17 at Ironton, 3636 Chestnut Place. For more information, go to irontonstudios.com.