Cecily Brown is a British-born artist who arrived in New York a little over two decades ago. An oil painter, her canvases deal with sexuality, eroticism, and attraction. Her paintings are layered figurative or semi-figurative abstractions with lascivious rich colors and strong, energetic brushwork. “My paintings have always dealt with turbulence and conflict,” says Brown. Her “Sirens and Shipwrecks and Bathers and the Band” 2006 is a huge 33-foot triptych of swirling gestures. The shipwrecked boat is surrounded by a hint of several burkini-clad women, a reference to an incident in Nice, France when armed police forced a Muslim woman to remove the covered-up garment she was wearing on the beach.
Brown recently had her first solo museum show in New York at the Drawing Center, which featured seventy-eight works on paper from 1997 to 2016. Although her drawings sometimes approached the large scale of her canvases, they were not preparatory studies but complete works of art. The drawings were grouped in sets according to their shared source imagery. Brown uses historical references in these works as she appropriates works from past artists such as Goya and Degas. The sketches show how she makes copied forms her own through the technique of repetition. The fluidity in her drawings and her facility with line comes from her putting marks down quickly and confidently. “Learning to draw is teaching yourself how to see, or making something you want to see.” Her drawings open onto a formal dreamland, through repetition.
Her art has appeared in more than a dozen solo exhibitions, numerous group shows, and art fairs throughout the world, with her most recent being the 2017 Armory Show and FOG Design+Art. Her paintings are in the permanent collection of the Guggenheim, Whitney, Hirschhorn, Tate Modern, MOCA , and others.