Pop culture references play an important role in the work of Cecily Brown and in 2013 she embarked on an entire series based on the record sleeve of Jimi Hendrix’s iconic 1968 album, Electric Ladyland.
The image for Hendrix’s album was taken by the photographer David Montgomery and depicts nineteen women languorously posing in the nude, some of whom hold pictures of the Hendrix himself. Of the group of paintings created by Cecily Brown in 2013, Where They Are Now is being offered for sale as part of the Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s on 26 June.
Exhibited at Gagosian Gallery in LA in 2013 alongside other works in the series, Where They Are Now is a standout example. At once reminiscent of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ Le Bain turc (1862) and Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), this painting transforms the nude women of Montgomery’s iconic 1960s photograph into a sea of fleshy painterly marks.
Forming part of her more subtle and suggestive later work, Where They Are Now channels a whole host of further art historical influences; falling somewhere between the Baroque debauchery of Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece Bacchanal (circa 1615), and the luscious, fleshy brushstrokes of Willem de Kooning’s Untitled VI (1980). By contrast with the more explicit romps of her earlier work, Where They Are Now operates on the tantalising interstice between abstraction and figuration.
The viewer rides swells of anticipation as they recognise and lose track of figures within colour and form, experiencing a wave-like pleasure augmented by the deferral of its resolution. As Joanna Drucker writes, Brown’s works maintain a "state of prolonged tension on the edge of final definition, deferring closure” (Joanna Drucker, Erotic Method in: Exh. Cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, Cecily Brown: Paintings 2003-2006, 2006, p. 5). Explicitly influenced by a wide-range of historic artists and Pop references, while being steadfastly original in all of her creations, Cecily Brown is at the forefront of the contemporary artists driving a twenty-first century revival of painting.
2013 was an extremely productive year for Brown. Capturing a torrent of deconstructed, euphoric sensation, Where They Are Now channels a wide range of contemporary media, from film and advertisements through to magazine articles and dreams, and heralds the finest work of Brown's recent practice.
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