Brenda  Brown


The sound of Brenda Brown's art is what you notice first: It's the gurgle of water, cascading over a ziggurat-like, stepped wooden form, or framed and contained by other free-standing architectural sculptures. Brown's work is at the Chapel Gallery, 60 Highland St., West Newton, through Sunday.  Obsessed with water, she offers a virtual aquatic autobiography, ranging from a drawing from a bird's eye view of the Boston University swimming pool to tiny, quiet pools of bronze, concrete or iron, which shape the water within. Throughout her work there is a tension between the geometric orderliness of the sculptures, made of hard materials, and the wayward freedom and shapelessness of the water.  In the most interesting works - the large ones in which the water travels instead of lying still, the tension operates in a suspenseful balance.
Christine Temin, The Boston Globe, April 24, 1986
Late summer is not the best time to visit Washington's galleries. Many are closed; lackluster group shows prevail in those that are open. On view through Sept. 9, Water Instruments; a show of bronze sculptures by Brenda
Brown at Henri Gallery (1500 21st St. NW), is an exception that proves the rule. Water is the theme and inspiration for all of the works in this modest yet credible showing, the artist's first in Washington. Subtly textured bronze containers and fountains cast in simple, elemental configurations evoke ancient measuring and hydraulic devices. The works explore perennial concerns and contrasts - life/death, motion, stagnation, the passage of time, the lure of infinity.

The show's instrument theme is most clearly evident in "Klepsydra," the artist's version of an ancient time-measuring device. Operating on the same principle as an  hourglass, the klepsydra consists  of two primitive bronze "buckets" suspended by chains from a wooden frame. Water drips through a small opening in the upper container into the lower one, marking time's passage.  The show's most engaging piece, "Squared Circle;' is a simple fountain consisting of a circular disk set in a bronze box. Here water is life, burbling below the mandalic circle, trickling over and dripping through its punched-out pattern of radiating leaves suggestive of vegetation. Here, as in the smaller "Bucket and Wheel Fountain;' a cylindrical container that spews water from a spoked inset, the forms used are familiar rather than invented. The artist exerts her sensibility through texture, patina and proportion.

It falters some in "Water Comb-Glimpses of Glistening," an inverted cast-aluminum cone filled with water and mounted on a tripod. Like spiderwebs, nylon threads strung with tiny colored beads crisscross the cone's interior,
luring the eye into its stagnant depths. But the beads seem a fussy, too precious touch against the organic assertiveness of the container; moreover, this work and others in which the water stands rather than flows would be greatly enhanced by an outdoor setting. There they might be periodically refreshed by rainwater, integrated into the ebb and flow of nature which serves as the artist's starting point.
Alice Thorsen, The Washington Times, September 3, 1987
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