The Quick One

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Cecily Brown, 19 February - 16 March 2002, p. 38 (illustrated, p. 39)
    Rome, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Cecily Brown, 7 June - 7 September 2003, p. 74 (illustrated, pp. 34-35)

  • Literature

    Charlie Finch, 'The Prisoners of Sex', Artnet.com, 7 March 2002 (illustrated)
    Ann Landi, 'Action! Drama! Love! Adventure!', ARTnews, June 2002, p. 99 (illustrated)
    Marie-Pierre Nakamura, '5 Femmes: Cecily Brown: Retour à L'Églogue', Art Actuel, June 2002 (illustrated)
    Massimiliano Gioni, 'New York Cut Up: Art Fragments from the Big Apple', Flash Art, May - June, 2002, p. 80 (illustrated)
    Rebecca Sonkin, 'Cecily Brown, Gagosian Gallery, New York,' Tema Celeste, May/June 2002, p. 91 (illustrated)
    Jonathan Gilmore, 'Cecily Brown at Gagosian', Art in America, July 2002, pp. 91-92

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Quick One, from 2002, is a dynamic, textural composition by Cecily Brown and is exemplary of the artist’s inimitable style and most distinguished painterly accomplishments. Atop a densely-worked landscape, frolicking rabbits are presented in a moment of fervent and frenzied pleasure, simultaneously illustrated as a moment of beauty. The mesmeric strokes of paint evoke nature, whilst simultaneously alluding to an entrancing sexual physicality.

    Throughout her oeuvre, celebrated for her crucial contribution to the revival of painting, Brown uses paint as a metaphor for sexual activity, smearing, dribbling, stabbing and thickly applying paint to her canvases to render sensual and engaging figurative compositions. In the present work, seemingly abstract, the artist’s dense and gestural brushwork leads the narrative. Within a forest, exuberant bunnies appear to have been caught in momentary transgression. For Brown, sexuality becomes enacted directly in the application of paint, as the artist captures carnal desire in the electrifying composition.

    Celebrating painting as a physical yet sensual practice, Brown draws imagery from diverse visual sources. Channeling the language of the Old Masters and taking inspiration from the likes of Jan Breugel, Peter Paul Rubens, Tintoretto, Goya and Hogarth, the present work echoes the textural quality and energy of Breugel’s animalistic compositions. Burrowing into the depths of the composition, Brown’s painterly skeins of rich colour echo the profusion of animals evident in Jan Bruegel the Elder’s The Entry of the Animals into Noah's Ark. Poetic and dynamic, in the expressive composition Brown combines the physicality of de Kooning’s work with the painterly conviction of Breugel. Quoting and admiring her artistic predecessors, in The Quick One, awash with densely worked impasto and tangible brushstrokes, Brown pays homage to a grand passage of art historical painting.

    A synthesis of art historical sources and bold physical and sexual activity, The Quick One, is exemplary of the artist’s fine draftsmanship and explorations into a painterly narrative. The enticing composition portrays a poignant message about sex, voyeurism, power and violence, akin to the fascination with the more sordid elements of classical myths and biblical stories that captured Breugel himself. Brown’s skilful employment of oil paint, through her vicious, vibrant and thrusting mark making, results in a magnificently unrestrained visual lexicon rooted in art historical tradition.

    In place of humans, in the mid-nineties the artist began using 'images of fairy-tale rabbits engaged in orgiastic scenes surrounded by furry animal onlookers' (Suzanne Cotter, ‘Seeing Double’ In: Cecily Brown: Paintings, Oxford, 2005, p. 40). Referring to the sexual nature of her earlier work, Brown asserts ‘I wanted to make something that you couldn't tear your eyes away from’ (Cecily Brown, quoted in ‘New York Minute: Cecily Brown,’ AnOther, 14 September 2012). Brown’s choice of subject as a narrative tool pairs aspects of frightening children’s stories with the overtly erotic and exploitative image of male fantasy, the Playboy bunny. Preceding her images of men and women engaged in sexual activity, Brown’s animalistic composition, The Quick One, presents a voyeuristic scene, whilst simultaneously inviting the viewer to uncover a tale. Commenting on her early choice of narrative device, Brown explains: ‘I was using bunnies more or less as human surrogates. As they progressed they were becoming more and more human - especially the genitals - and I realised that I couldn't avoid the issue of painting the human figure any longer. While the bunnies had been in somewhat 'real' space, I needed a new way to emphasise the fact that this was an invented space. Obviously, the bunnies existed in a fantasy land - as soon as humans were involved, it seemed the only way to approach it was to start messing with scale and space much more’ (Suzanne Cotter, ‘Seeing Double’, Cecily Brown: Paintings. Oxford, 2005, p. 41).

    Bounding with raw energy, the graphic and sexually charged composition relates back to Brown’s earlier compositions of rabbits in a sexual feeding frenzy. Here, however, the dissected brushstrokes and unresolved areas of fore- and back- ground pre-empt the artist’s more recent erratically bold and gestural brushwork. Between abstraction and figuration, instilled with exuberance and fine draftsmanship, The Quick One is a celebration of Brown’s limitless and painterly truthfulness.

Ο28

The Quick One

signed and dated 'Cecily Brown 2002' on the stretcher; further signed and dated 'Cecily Brown '02' on the reverse
oil on linen
121.9 x 152.4 cm (48 x 60 in.)
Painted in 2002.

Estimate
£280,000 - 350,000 ‡ ♠

sold for £405,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 hhighley@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2018