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|One More Thought on Cecily Brown
by Charlie Finch
|Cecily Brown, Jan. 14-Feb. 19, 2000, at Gagosian, 136 Wooster Street, New York, N.Y. 10012.
In a way it's disappointing that Cecily Brown got all that attention for being sexy and a throwback to the Ab Ex era and then crashed through her own reflection in real life.
The pub, the hype and the glory obscured something essential about Cecily -- that her new paintings at Gagosian are truly revolutionary.
One has been conditioned by the Koons, and Halley, and Salle (and even Tom Sachs, for God's sake!) art factories to not even consider the individual artwork any more -- Cecily's pieces meet you one by one.
I went back to look at them a couple of times, and each new time Cecily's paint turned smoother and more lyrical -- the upside down self-portrait, presciently painted by Cecily and purchased by Mike Ovitz, seems to be the product of one long sinister blood red stroke.
There's a black painting that looks pretty weak at first, and a white painting that could have been created by a lesser talent like Will Cotton -- yet closer inspection reveals a striking Hans Hofmannesque blue square here, and little amulets of green there, and pretty soon you're in the presence of a real painter.
Cecily's show proves once and for all that alleged experts like Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz are so jaded by automaton-like gallery hopping that they've lost any fresh vision they once had, if ever.
Roberta delivered an anti-Brown Methodist sermon in the New York Times, then Jerry whipped Cecily again in the Voice. They should go back and look again.
There's a painting dominated by a giant dick-and-balls as you enter Gagosian that turns into a garden camouflaged as Bonnard when viewed from the back of the room, filled with luscious reds and greens.
There's a delicious pink meltdown of a Cecily surrogate being dick-reamed that morphs into an Arshile Gorky at the edges of the canvas, making the critic contemplate that, like Gorky, Cecily has had her violent moments, and unlike Gorky, Pollock, van Gogh and Caravaggio (and, yet, like Andy Warhol), she has apparently survived.
Cecily has a remarkable color sense, making Joan Mitchell look impressionistically pedestrian by comparison. Her stuff could benefit from more spillage off the canvas, a la Sam Francis, but generally she edits the picture plane with assurance and aplomb.
(Ironic note to Miss Brown: in the future, avoid black.)
If I were some ding-dong Gagosian crony, kicking back with a cigar and martini in Malibu, the fresh fleshy Cecily paint might even make me a little horny, but then Hollywood hasn't seen anyone as authentic as Cecily since the '30s.
Well, for better or worse, Cecily honey, you've got one brilliant career -- maybe someday the so-called pros will recognize that you're also a really great painter.
And watch those friends, OK?
CHARLIE FINCH is author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (1998).