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Zephyr II

Buddy I

Feddy III

Malcolm I

Looking Down on Man's Best Friend
by Charlie Finch

Deborah Brown, May 3-June 23, 2001, at Cheryl Pelavin Fine Art, 13 Jay Street, New York, N.Y. 10013.

Deborah Brown is one of those accomplished artists from the down market '90s (where have you gone Lauren Szold, Michael Scott, Alix Pearlstein, Ford Beckman, Kerri Scharlin?) Lost in the tsunami of the Millen Gen's art school art stars, who include three Browns, Cecily, Delia and Glenn, but, alas, not Deborah.

Nevertheless, Deborah plugs on, specializing in public commissions, notably permanent aquacades in Hartford and New York's Houston Street subway station.

Feisty and formidable in her 40s, Deborah Brown also had the bad luck to paint paintings of animals during the '90s, when only the human form, preferably one's own, was de rigueur. Now she's one of many: Steve Mumford, Walton Ford, John Newson, Ann Craven, Alexis Rockman, Deborah Butterfield, even Damien Hirst's butterflies, all Dionysians.

Four years ago, Deborah began walking abandoned dogs for the Humane Society. Among strays, these are the lucky ones, not immediately put to death.

Deborah's paintings of these tempest-tossed canines effortlessly transfer the love she feels for each and every one to us. They are painted from above, doggy eyes begging for attention, to become a subject, not an object, to the humans above them.

Foreshortened and encapsulated, dogs like Buddy or Feddy III demonstrate the vulnerability within them through Brown's artful interpretation. Her show opens at Cheryl Pelavin on May 3, and will also feature a line of prints, based on the paintings, from Pelavin Editions.

Deborah Brown has leavened an oft-sentimentalized genre, doggie paintings (The most heavily purchased art items in America!) with a soft, gray breeze of mutual feeling between woman and beast.

And if the trendy, snobby news that rich people are into mixed breeds is true, perhaps many more of Deborah's once-and-future models will live on, be saved.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).