Cecily Brown, Slow Looking, and Magic Eye Books

Alie Cline
Apr 10, 2013 2:52AM

I've just discovered Cecily Brown's work as I researched her to feature on Cave to Canvas tomorrow, and I'm blown away by her paintings; at first they seemed like regular ol' Abstract Expressionism (aka Art History 101), but the longer I looked at them, the more intriguing each piece became.

These aren't paintings you can glance at quickly and move on; they demand you wade your way through the sensual layers of pigment, the erotic colors, bodies slowly rising from the seemingly chaotic combination of brushstrokes and paint. Glimpses of figures tucked away beneath fuzzy shapes slowly start to emerge as your eyes adjust to Brown's style; the curve of a fleshy thigh peeks out from behind the arm of a chair, a thick swipe of nude paint suggests the shape of a torso. Although these paintings are undeniably erotic in nature, Brown refrains from explicit imagery. Her currency is suggestion, not shock value. 

Brown's pieces remind me of the Magic Eye books that elementary schoolers love: try to focus on the printed pattern and nothing happens, but let your eyes go soft and fuzzy and you're rewarded with a 3D picture. Brown's work functions in a similar way. Glance too fast and you'll end up frustrated by abbreviated clips of imagery always just out of reach. But if you look slowly and let your eyes adjust to her intricacies, soon you'll find yourself transported to a dream-like world, lost among her virtuoso brushwork and imagery, quite happy to never be found.

Alie Cline
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