Glenn Brown - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Glenn Brown, February 25 – April 10, 2004

  • Catalogue Essay

    Color and its myriad of combinations always amazes me. To paint the expression of a face and to change that expression, from happy to sad by one miniscule change in the shadow of an eye, makes one never want to do anything else.


    Moving away from his science fiction and thick impasto paintings of years past, the present work makes clear that Glenn Brown continues to explore the means of painting and expression. Based on Fragonard’s portrait of Madame Guimard (1743-1816), prima ballerina of the Paris Opera, Filth is both technically consistent and highly intellectual, the smooth polished surface subverting the bold gesture of the stroke. While the way in which Brown represents and models the forms on his canvas recalls the vigorous strokes of Willem de Kooning, he has developed certain marks with a particular twist that are unique to his work.

    Brown’s version of Fragonard’s portrait gains intensity from the aggressive, unapologetic brushstrokes, the liberal use of color and the darkly atmospheric, emanating background. The deep yellows and lush reds that once described the sitter, Brown has changed into garish, decaying combinations that render her more boldly uninhibited. Most noticeably, perhaps, are the now prominent beauty mark on her cheek and the ribbon tied around her neck — once a delicate blue-gray ribbon, her accessory figures now as a bright red cut. This portrait of Madame Guimard is no longer modest and unassuming, but rather, something a bit more challenging. In this aptly titled work, all innocence is lost here — the sitter is made filthy. As is the case with most of Brown’s works, the title almost immediately suggests the works ethical dimension. Filth, here,
    is perhaps an allusion to the Madame being more famous for her love affairs than for her dancing. What is certain, however, is that while Madame Guimard Jean-Honoré was a real person who was there at the start, Brown has transformed and warped her image to the point that she has almost disappeared completely, only her ghost remaining.

    Engaged in a kind of postmodern critique, Brown looks to the work of old masters as a means to not only raise issues of authorship and originality, but also to question how one understands the traditional possibilities of painting. As the artist himself explains, “to make something up from scratch is nonsensical…images are a language. It’s impossible to make a painting that is not borrowed — even the images in your dreams refer to reality” (S. Kent, “Putrid Beauty,” ARTINFO , May 1, 2009). Still, rather than making his work easily legible, Brown embraces irony and difficulty in opposition to the medium’s stigma of conventionalism. What he has done here is not simply
    appropriate an image, for that term would negate the intensely painterly and aesthetic understanding involved in this work. Breathing new life into the now deceased figures whose images inhabit the canvases of great painters, Brown inventively pieces together elements of color, composition and background in an approach that goes beyond that of simply cutting and pasting, creating works of art that are uniquely his own. “The naked flesh of the original model may be long dead, but that just aids the imagination,” Brown explains, “Fragonard, Auerbach and Rembrandt painted the living. Their flesh has become paint, so I paint paint. The paint is the crusty residue
    left after the relationship between the artist and his model is over. It is all there is left of real love, so I paint that” (B. Duggan, “Variety Show: The Art of Glenn Brown,” Big Think, Oct. 11 2010 , p. 16).

Ο ◆6


Oil on panel.
52 3/8 x 37 1/8 in. (133 x 94.3 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated “Glenn Brown Filth 2004” on the reverse.

$1,500,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for $2,546,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York