Following in the footsteps of the great originators of Appropriation Art such as Richard Prince and Elaine Sturtevant, over the last ten years Glenn Brown has brought a new technical mastery and conceptual animation to the movement. While the term 'appropriation' might come to mind, it is inadequate to describe the intricacy of Glenn Brown’s practice. He subjects all that he borrows to a complex series of modifications, additions and distortions. Far from being a simple critique of the source of the painting or a post-modern comment on the reproducibility of the image, each of Brown’s re-adapatations attains a life of its own which reflects the painting it borrows while also expanding its subjective field.
First and foremost, Glenn Brown loves paint and revels in its ability to create illusion. While many artists may choose to paint from the landscape or figure, Brown delves into the history of art to find his subject matter. Painstakingly recreating an image of an image, Brown often heightens the color or plays with the modes of conception of the original in order to stamp his own authoritative style on the painting. While each painting directly borrows from one or multiple sources, each one is unmistakably from his own hand. Generally super-real in their execution, whether flattening an Auerbach painting or turning a Watteau upside down, each work is beautifully crafted in the finest detail, an effect which completely suspends disbelief.
Brown is attracted to many of these artists not just because of their glorious contributions to art history, but also for their weaknesses, transgressions and guilt. In the case of You Take My Place in this Showdown, Brown takes as his reference a 1929 painting called The Great Masturbator by Salvador Dalí. As one of the first great Surrealist works that Dalí made, the original was itself based on a color photograph bought at a fairground of a woman smelling a lily, however once Dalí’s brush got to work it was no longer a lily that the woman was appreciating. Here, Brown has taken the previously relatively small horizontal image of Dalí’s painting, turned it into a vertical and blown it up on a huge scale. As such, the sleeping male head which formed the central focus of the original composition becomes squashed and the female, dream-like figure takes over. Heightening the richness of the colors from the original, Brown aligns this work with his Science Fiction pieces, consciously turning the image from the consummate Surrealist image of desire in the late 1920s into a vision of future fantasy. The title, as with many of his works, is taken from a track by the British rock band, Joy Division.
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