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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    In her painting Night Passage, Cecily Brown layers her canvas with pastel tones, subduing her vigorous brushwork with revealing painterly finesse. The fluidity of her colours and strokes intertwine smoothly with each other, drawing the viewer into the painting in an attempt to navigate the abstracted yet enticingly narrative work that is the hallmark of Brown’s signature style.

    While at first glance the shapes of the figures in the canvas are difficult to discern, they eventually emerge, marked by a vibrancy of colour and brushstroke. The canvas is filled with sensual flesh tones which take corporeal form as large entangled bodies. Somewhere between figuration and abstraction, Brown has created her own painterly vocabulary to evoke sexual energy and turmoil, resulting in a painting which reveals as much as it obscures.

    "The scale of Brown's paintings, their turbulent maelstroms of colour and their raunchy subject matter, confront the viewer in their undeniable physicality. A brief glance at her largely figurative works summons forth memories of some of the twentieth century's heaviest hitters - an essentially all male cast that includes Arshile Gorky, Willem De Kooning, Francis Bacon and Philip Guston.…Brown's target is "the quick fix" that characterizes the way we respond to the barrage of images we are subject to in contemporary culture. Her paintings are about looking; looking to discern an image, a story, a narrative, but also looking as a form of voyeurism, transgression and violation, and the mutual perversion this implies. Sex is the most obvious subject matter with which to tease the guilty viewer, and, in Brown's case, has provided a perfect subject for her early explorations into painterly narrative."
    (S. Cotter, Cecily Brown: Paintings, Oxford, 2005, p. 37)

    By engaging the viewer, Brown's work frequently questions the gender roles played out in art history where the female body is the object of the male gaze. Brown suggests a different take on female sexuality, where the body is equally objectified and infused with desire and erotic potential. Through constant references to the history of painting, Brown has turned the machismo often associated with the Abstract Expressionist painters, whose work she alludes to, into something explicitly her own. By harnessing gesture and youthful energy, Brown has succeeded in producing a body of work that embodies the intersection of the age-old medium of paint and the vibrancy of the new millennium.

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Night Passage

1999
Oil on canvas.
100 x 109 3/4 in. (254 x 279 cm).
Signed and dated "Cecily 1999" lower left and again "Cecily Brown 1999" on the reverse.

Estimate
£300,000 - 400,000 ≠ ♠ †

Sold for £468,000

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Evening Sale
13 October 2007, 4pm
London