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ART REVIEW : Exposing the Pain Behind Our Poses

August 27, 1993|DAVID PAGEL

In Deborah Brown's first solo show, little mutant dolls perch on bird swings, recline on ring pillows, preen on tiny lighted stages, and are pinned to the wall like insect specimens. Her updated version of Surrealist fragmentation and fetishization playfully lays bare the violence and pain underlying the postures and poses we often hide behind.

Brown's dismembered and reconfigured playthings at Mark Moore Gallery take us back to an imaginary childhood situated somewhere between the land of misfit toys and Japanese science-fiction animation. Here, rejects take their revenge.

Their aggressive nastiness is captivating, engaging and infectious because it's detached from any sort of straightforward political position or moralizing social criticism. Paradoxically, Brown's parade of freaks is most potent at the points where it lacks specificity.

When the metaphors embodied by her miniature monsters can't be contained by common psychoanalytic arguments, they gain in fascination and force. When Brown's isolated hybrids repeat run-of-the-mill impressions, they fail to distinguish themselves from a popular brand of toy art that is boring in its predictability.

More often than not, Brown's art invites us to find unanticipated connections between garish ostentation and vulnerability, showing that she's an artist worth watching.

* Mark Moore Gallery, 2032-A Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 453-3031, through Sept. 4. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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