Through the sensuality of its painted surface, Confessions of a Window Cleaner exhibits the implied human presence inherent to Brown’s distinctive style. With its fiery reds, fleshy pinks, and rich ochre, the present work invites viewers to consume its luscious forms, fulfilling the artist’s desire—viewing her works “should be a pleasurable, even a hedonistic experience….” (The artist in conversation with Lari Pittman in Ibid., p. 27) The painting’s hints of violet pigment, and its infinite variations in brushstroke—ranging from quick horizontal streaks, broad flourishes, thick drips, to coiled skeins—cause the eye to wander around the canvas’s massive surface. As such, the viewer is “susceptible to the enchantments of the density of paint, of color, as they perform events on the canvas surface.” (Ibid., p. 20) Playfully challenging traditionally perceived boundaries of abstraction and figuration, Confessions of a Window Cleaner illuminates the extraordinary potential of paint to unpack the admixture of sensorial faculties that makes up our human experience of seeing.
Viewers can readily discern the present work’s deep resonance with a seemingly endless array of art historical references. From the passionate aura, sweeping lines, and smoldering red palette of Eugène Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus, the textural figuration of Paul Cézanne’s Large Bathers, to the carnal tumult of Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, Brown’s Confessions of a Window Cleaner evokes the vernacular of legendary painters across the history of art, abstracting her forms all the while retaining the grand narrative impact of her forebears. Perhaps most evidently, Brown’s visual language and handling of pigment and paint is informed by the gestural mark-making of the American Abstract Expressionists. Indeed, Brown’s tenacious and immersive brushwork is an affirmation of Willem de Kooning’s famous mantra that "flesh was the reason oil paint was invented," and Brown herself described the medium as "sensual, it moves, it catches the light, it’s great for skin and flesh and heft and meat…I wanted to make something that you couldn’t tear your eyes away from." (Cecily Brown, in Derek Peck, "New York Minute: Cecily Brown," Another, September 14, 2012)
A visceral and commanding exploration of painting’s elusive power of suggestion, Confessions of a Window Cleaner encapsulates the ethos of Brown’s singular artistic project. Its evocation of human flesh through bold gesture and vivid color perfectly illustrates the artist’s reflection that she wants “there to be a human presence without having to depict it in full.” (The artist in conversation with Lari Pittman in Dore Ashton, Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, p. 28) Wholly irresistible, Confessions of a Window Cleaner engages the medium of painting itself, capitalizing on the sensuality of her materials and ability to playfully manipulate the viewer’s perception through descriptive possibilities.
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