Text by Margot Norton
With a distinctive blend of acerbic critique, absurdist humor, and indefatigable energy, Lex Brown probes the underside of popular culture. In her videos and performances, Brown and her collaborators take on a multifarious array of television personalities, social media influencers, and advertising clichés—their identities in perpetual, shape-shifting motion. For these works, she draws from the linguistic tropes, iconography, and mannerisms that proliferate in the attention economy, echoing and recapitulating this syntactic logic through clowning and improvisation techniques. With raucous satire and ample hyperbole, Brown illuminates the many contradictions and traumas that haunt the subconscious of American society.
Her imagined sci-fi worlds and fantastical storylines become vehicles for searing subversion that simultaneously elicit hilarity and disquiet.
In contrast to Brown’s videos, her drawings evoke a slower pace, and are rendered in dense applications of colored pencil. As with her videos and performances, these drawings hone in on overlooked behaviors and infrastructures that permeate the everyday. Many of them contain her writing (Brown is also a published author) in kaleidoscopic and richly-textured compositions. A series of drawings comprising her show at Kate Werble Gallery in New York, They Flew to Planet Nova (2020), depict suburban architectures such as McMansions and data centers in the Washington D.C. suburbs where Brown grew up. While seemingly banal, these edifices are steeped in political power dynamics such as the troubling U.S. housing bubble and the looming presence of data and national security companies. Like much of her work, her drawings address blatant social issues and sobering truths, yet do so with an intrepid honesty that reminds us of those fundamental idiosyncrasies we all share, and which keep us human. One of the statements in a text-based drawing from Brown’s exhibition at The Kitchen has stayed with me since, as it embodies the humor, sincerity, and razor-sharp critique that her work propagates:
“SLAVERY; IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. NOW OR LATER OR ANYTIME COMES A FEEBLE ATTEMPT AT MANUAL OVERRIDE OF THE SYSTEM. ALL OF THE PLANETS ARE MOVING YET NONE OF THEM ARE ALIVE AND TREES ARE ALWAYS GROWNING ALL OF THE TIME.”
Text by Margot Norton
In the middle of Nowhere
LEX BROWN is an artist, vocalist, and writer whose work plays with the scale of emotional experience in relation to large systems of social and economic organization. She has exhibited at the New Museum, the High Line, the International Center of Photography, the Munchmuseet and The Kitchen. Consciousness, a survey of Brown’s work spanning the past eight years, is newly available from GenderFail.
MARGOT NORTON is Curator at the New Museum, New York. With Jamillah James, she is curating the 2021 New Museum Triennial, and recently curated exhibitions with Sarah Lucas, Mika Rottenberg, Diedrick Brackens, and Carmen Argote at the New Museum; the group exhibition The Same River Twice at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece; and the Georgian Pavilion with artist Anna K.E. at the 2019 Venice Biennale.