Cecily Brown - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 18, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Known for the sumptuous fluidity of her paintings and prints, Cecily Brown’s work is redolent with art historical references built into uniquely haptic, sensuous, and deeply compelling surfaces. Her Untitled monotype created in 2013 is immediately reminiscent of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ Le Bain Turc, 1862 and Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907 with its rich peaches and ochres, blurring flesh tones with distorted figural forms. Continuously borrowing from the visual past, Brown creates synesthetic reinterpretations of historic compositions: abstracted and indistinct but uncanny in their familiarity. 

     

    Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Le bain turc, 1862, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
    Image: Photo Josse / Scala, Florence

     

    Falling somewhere between the fleshy, baroque debauchery of Peter Paul Rubens’s Bacchanalia, 1615 and the haunting bestial madness of William Blake’s c. 1800 Nebuchadnezzar monotype, Brown’s monotype adopts an original and unique position within the longstanding tradition of nude bather scenes. Untitled, 2012 is an oneiric, melting composition of slumped and staggering figures, interrupted, and accompanied by small moments of disquiet: a leering doll’s head, a disappearing feline face. The tension between recognisable forms and indistinct brush marks is elegantly played out through the succulent, luminous printed surface, which was created using the techniques she honed at Two Palms press. 

     

    (Left): William Blake, Nebuchadnezzar, 1795. Image: Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Miscellaneous Works of Art Purchase Fund, 1957. 
    (Right): Peter Paul Rubens, Bacchanalia, c. 1615, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. Image: Bridgeman Images.

     

    Founded in 1994 by David Lasry in downtown New York, Two Palms changed the notion of what a print can or should be, and how it is made, championing the creation of monotypes and monoprints, which Lasry sees as “perhaps the most diverse and dynamic of all the print mediums.” Whilst monoprints use repeatable images, monotypes (Brown’s preferred technique) involve the simple transfer of an image from one smooth surface to another. Since the initial surface on which the artist creates the image is not etched or otherwise absorbent to ink, the image can only be transferred once. Lasry describes being “stunned by the results of our trial and error, interrupting the rote, systematized understanding of printmaking. The limitless material prospects offered by the creation of these singular prints allows us to tap into our shared curiosities and veer from tradition.”

     

    Photo of Cecily in the studio. Image: Courtesy of Two Palms, New York
    Photo of Cecily in the studio. Image: Courtesy of Two Palms, New York

    One of the largest prints Brown has made, Untitled exploits the drama of scale and the spontaneity of brushwork that is fostered by the monotype medium and compares to her paintings in both its monumentality and technique. To make it, Brown worked on a sheet of Plexiglas placed on the wall like a canvas, using oil paint made of turpentine, dammar, and linseed oil. Once complete, the Plexiglas template was laid in a hydraulic press, which applies pressure to the entire template simultaneously (unlike a roller press in which the pressure moves down the image as the template runs through it) thereby transferring the image onto heavy Lanaquarelle paper without disturbing the painted image in the process. 

     

    The smooth surface of Plexiglas is especially conducive to adding and scraping through painted marks, affording Brown the ability to make expansive, spontaneous gestures and build layers of slick colour and texture. This material allowed Brown to work more rapidly in monotype than she does in painting, sometimes producing several works in a day, and her swift process is apparent in the vigorous physicality of the final print. 

    • Provenance

      Two Palms Press, New York
      Private Collection, USA
      Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

92

Untitled

2013
Monotype in oil paint, on Lanaquarelle paper, the full sheet.
S. 122.6 x 181 cm (48 1/4 x 71 1/4 in.)
Signed and dated in pencil on the reverse, published by Two Palms Press, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£40,000 - 60,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £88,200

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 18 - 19 January 2023