Since parting ways with Gagosian Gallery in 2015, painter Cecily Brown has remained conspicuously out of view, occasionally popping up for an exhibition here or there in her home city of New York. Now, two years after her last show at Maccarone, the artist has appeared again, bringing a body of new paintings to bear on the spacious halls of Paula Cooper’s Chelsea exhibition space. In its last week of exhibition, Brown’s pieces have once again underscored her complex relationship between the image and its modes of expression, ultimately blurring easy readings of the act of gestural abstraction and its relationship to the artist herself.
Brown’s work continues its flurries of imaginative, fluid gesture, twisting the human body and its myriad poses and positions into a feedback system of sorts. Pathways and movements of each form bleed into each other, while in other moments, the sheer density of the artist’s brush-strokes seem to overwhelm the canvas with the sum total of its actions and embellishments. In others, any semblance of figuration collapses under the weight of the artist’s totality of gestures. These are affirmations of life and living in the most emphatic and essential of terms; swelling, throbbing landscapes of color and line that stand as a testament to the careful balance and sense of space that Brown has simultaneously managed and disrupted time and again over the course of her career.
In a year dominated by a newsfeed full of assaults on human rights, political strife and domestic conflict, these pieces feel increasingly vital, calling the vibrant energy of the human spirit to the forefront. Their process through human motion and energy reach a fever pitch, a point where the totality of life blots out the body itself. Yet Brown’s work is equally an expression of her own body in exchange with the canvas, of her own reach and pathways about and across the surface as she fills it with these enthused marks and flicks of oil paint. Much as her work expresses a certain vibrancy in their relation to the human form, it is each work’s relation to concrete movement, that of Brown’s own dance of lines and pools of color, that gives them their vivacity. Brown’s work, even at its most abstracted distances from the sense of the animated body on the canvas itself, makes the case for a boundless enthusiasm of expression, a note that feels distinctly inspiring.
Her work is on view through December 2nd.
— D. Creahan
Cecily Brown at Paula Cooper [Exhibition Site]