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Cecily Brown at the MFA

Post #889 • October 18, 2006, 7:51 PM • 109 Comments

A new publication is forthcoming here. It's midnight now, and I'm posting it against my better judgment. I reserve the right to revise in the morning.

Update: Good morning! Feedback indicates that this publication appears correctly in Firefox, but not Internet Explorer or AOL on any system. This has something to do with the javascript, but I don't know what. Sorry.

Update 2: So I hacked together a straight html version. Warning: sacrificed design.




October 18, 2006, 11:29 PM

That's not a post. Or are you just hoping we'll do a little homework first?



October 19, 2006, 12:46 AM

Juicy, big, and earthy.



October 19, 2006, 1:21 AM

I know elit-ists aren't supposed to talk about art they haven't gazed upon directly, but I really like most of these jpegs, and many of the others I've seen in a googlimage search. Sorry for jumping the gun.


Marc Country

October 19, 2006, 1:32 AM

I'm no expert on Ms. Brown (or Mr. Bas), but something in the figures, I find a touch too Hernan-esque (especially work #2)... I like the rest well enough, though perhaps not as much as Ahab does...



October 19, 2006, 3:02 AM

...I find a touch too Hernan-esque...
Different leagues.

I can see why Franklin would like them
David Cohen didn't
Jerry had mixed feelings
As I recall, one hit the million mark in the auction market last year.

All in all a good setup for a bash, Where's Jack? Come on guys slam'em.



October 19, 2006, 7:31 AM

I'd love to, George, but the post comes up blank on my computer. I have always found her paintings too incoherent for my taste, supported mainly by the Where's Wally "see if you can figure out who is screwing who" subject matter.

I am all for talking about images seen on the internet, Ahab, being a corrupted elit-ist. I think George is against it, more or less.


Sneekie Piet

October 19, 2006, 8:11 AM

In my experience her paintings look significanty better in person.



October 19, 2006, 9:02 AM

Comes up blank on my office computer, too. Nothing.



October 19, 2006, 9:35 AM

On my screen these images are max 5 x 5 inches so it is limiting but the brushwork looks masterful I m thinking of Rembrandt, Tintoretto even Turner Problem for me is technical mastery isn t enuf. Hernan at his best presents highly original emotional situations and even tho I don t think his paint work is as great as Brown s thiis makes his work more interesting, and above all more innovative than hers.
On the level of content , Brown s work is scarcely more interesting than say Maurice Prendergast or to choose another contemporary local , Purvis Young. I ll take Turner or a Constable oil sketch anyday: I mean lets face it; it s great when a contemporary artist can manage paint so well but if you can t legitimitately build on the past coupl'a thousand years and offer something for now then how can your work be of interest ..



October 19, 2006, 9:49 AM

As I said, I don't know what everyone is looking at, but I have seem her paintings in galleries and to my eye they are hardly "masterful" or even coherent. Smushing a lot of paint all over the surface does not amount to "masterful". Comparison to Rembrandt or Tintoretto is just ludicrous. Comparison to a hasty, unrealized 70s de Kooning may be a little closer, but without anywhere near his skill level. This is the pomo version of the 10th street abstract expressionism of the 50s and 60s.



October 19, 2006, 10:11 AM

Graphed, it's a steep curve of worst to best: 2, 3, 4, 6, 1, 5, wait, 1, no, 5, yes, 5. The text, which I only noticed this morning, has got it exactly right.



October 19, 2006, 10:40 AM

opie, you should lose the word "pomo" from your vocabulary, it's a dated expression.

I doubt Brown gives a hoot about 10th street. I think she is a young painter with a lot of talent and ambition for her paintings. The porno thing was the initial hook but the way she handles the paint belies her real interest in the paint itself. By not making the image too explicit, for obvious reasons, she ends up blurring its distinction, merging the abstract and the representational. I think this is where the weakness lies, the paintings aren't always clear.



October 19, 2006, 10:56 AM

The images are visible in Firefox but nothing at all is visible in IE 6 - opie's blank page. In both cases the HTML loads and can be examined.

If Brown were an undergrad painter I'd say she shows promise and invite her to apply for our BFA. I believe she would be accepted, too.



October 19, 2006, 11:07 AM

LOL, the million dollar undergrad!



October 19, 2006, 11:09 AM

That's Ok, George. I'm a dated kind of guy. And I don't give a shit about dated anyway.

Of course she doesn't give a hoot about 10th St. She is doing it nonetheless.



October 19, 2006, 11:11 AM

And you can bet your booties that she would have to improve some to get the degree. (But not a lot.)



October 19, 2006, 11:46 AM

Get off the highhorse Catfish! If Cecily Brown were an undergrad she'd paint circles around most of the professors. In fact anyone that takes her in as an undergrad would have to learn from her.



October 19, 2006, 12:05 PM

She could certanly teach us all something about making it in the art world, Eddie. I'm not so sure about the painting part. I think we are all a bit too impressed by worldly success.



October 19, 2006, 12:11 PM

Opie and anyone else with trouble viewing it: see updates.



October 19, 2006, 12:34 PM


I prefer the html version. If you use something like 'blockquote' to indent the image and text it would look fine.

I dislike that I have to click to see the text and notes in the original version, I'd much rather have them all on the same page.



October 19, 2006, 12:47 PM

George, thanks for the feedback. Supergirl felt the same way. The advantage of this is being able to fit a larger image on the screen with more text, although you still have to click between them. I knew I wouldn't know how I felt about it until I tried it.



October 19, 2006, 1:00 PM


I like bloggers setup where you imbed the image in the text. It allows for resizing, a smaller image in the layout that's linked to a larger version of the image. It allows for longer text with a direct reference to a particular (smaller) image close by. You could get away with a 300 or so pixel high smaller image. If the reader is interested they will click through to the larger one. It's like laying out a magazine.



October 19, 2006, 1:02 PM

Or you could do it a bit like ArtCritical does, start out with a large image near the top to pique interest and then use the smaller ones in the body text. ArtCritical usually just has one image which I find is not enough if the work is interesting at all.



October 19, 2006, 1:05 PM

She could certanly teach us all something about making it in the art world...

Well, what do ya need to know? It's the Gagosian factor at work.



October 19, 2006, 1:07 PM

Re: the text--what the devil does this "capable of an equally comely headshot" have to do with anything???



October 19, 2006, 1:36 PM

Snoopy, because of her abilities, not much. That was my point. See the Jerry Saltz article that George linked to above for a more cynical analysis.



October 19, 2006, 1:37 PM

I need to learn something, George. I am not exactly selling paintings for a million dollars.

Maybe I need a comely head shot.



October 19, 2006, 1:40 PM

Really, George, you don't actually miss me, do you? Well, I remember a character in a movie saying he missed having jock itch once he stopped playing high school basketball, so I suppose it's possible.

Jack is increasingly tired of the scene and its players. He may not be able to drag himself to the upcoming Art Basel circus, not even the main event (which he has liked less each successive time it's been in Miami). He just read this morning that some megarich art (trophy) collector managed to poke a hole with a stray elbow in a Picasso canvas he'd just sold for $139M (he decided to keep it, after all). Said collector, a Vegas casino and hotel guy, may have been quoted in an unflattering way, but he sounded, well, like a Vegas casino and hotel guy. I know, it's the way of the world, but it doesn't make Jack feel any better.

As for Ms. Brown, she's all right, but the competition is anything but stellar, and of course she's overrated--practically everyone and everything is overrated these days. She has some feeling for color, for one thing, which which is at times fairly lyrical and makes a nice counterpoint to the physicality and hyperactivity of the paint (which she tends to overdo). I'm not in the mood to go anywhere near Bas just now. I'm not really in the mood, period.



October 19, 2006, 1:43 PM

opie, LOL, me niether.

I don't know how she ended up at Gagosian but it's the reason for her high auction prices.



October 19, 2006, 1:58 PM

re #27 opie,
I need to learn something,

A brash response, switch to oil paint.



October 19, 2006, 2:29 PM

Basquiat: "SAMO as an alternative 2 playing art with the 'radical chic' sect on Daddy's $ funds" Daddy give her $ me thinks.



October 19, 2006, 7:21 PM

The Picasso I mentioned above, a 1932 work ("The Dream"), is definitely not worth such money, except to trophy hunters with more or less unlimited budgets. Perhaps Picasso was too successful and spawned too many imitators, but the piece has not held up especially well. No doubt it's better in the flesh, but reproduced images of it look vaguely cheesy.



October 19, 2006, 7:38 PM

While I've seen Brown's work only in reproduction so far, I hope to see the MFA retro next week. I've read reviews and heard people in conversation criticizing her painting, not so much on feminist or semiotic grounds as on formal ones. Of course, many of these were in response to hyperbolic comparisons to Wilhelm de Kooning, in which case scepticism does seem appropriate. As much as I do see formal sophistication (at least in the image you've provided), I do see "sex and violence" as well. Why do these two aspects have to be opposed to each other?


Marc Country

October 19, 2006, 8:10 PM

Ahab, yes, 5.



October 19, 2006, 9:13 PM

Better format now, Franklin. I like that I can go to the text if I want more info, but can just as well ignore it, which is what I usually prefer anyhow. Same with the titles - I don't care about titles, and can never remember a piece by its name anyway.

In my top three (5,1,6), I don't sense mere "smushing a lot of paint all over". I get a good amount of the setting, with appropriate articulation of depth, and agree with Jack's (qualified) statement about decent feeling for colour. I think the discretional changes in scale of marks contribute positively to the picture. I find myself enjoying being pulled around these images, and don't feel manipulated in the viewing of them the way a Where's Waldo page makes me feel. Inexplicably, I agree with Cohen that though she cannot draw she can still make me look.

Would you guys, catfish and opie - the only two naysayers so far (I don't count Saltz as he continually invalidates his own criticisms) - explain more specifically what you find unsatisfactory in these three CB paintings?



October 19, 2006, 10:44 PM

Hey ahab, I thought Brown woud make a good candidate for a BFA. Very promising. I can't say how good they are or are not because I've not seen them in person, but I know they are not great pictures.

Since you seem to like #5, I can add at least one specific: there is too much green around the edges. But speculatively, changing it does not seem likely to really raise the level.

About "type": I just don't go for any certain type of painting. But if I did, I should go for this one because it is painterly, and I'm painterly myself. Or maybe it works in reverse, because I'm painterly I'm more persnickety about painterly works; they have to make the cut or I'm not that impressed.

About her success: it makes sense to me. There is a certain combination of a cute girl who works with sex in a way that appeals to most men and a lot of women, and who is a decent painter, and bold enough to reference AE in a way that is watered down enough to avoid scaring those who would be scared if they were forced to think AE was still alive. That isn't what makes her successful. But it may have something to do why Gagosian picked up on her, and how she goes over. Lynda Bengalis went over (in her youth) with a similar assortment of assets (though not exactly the same). Jane magazine should do a big spread on C. Brown. Its readers would love her.

Alfred North Whitehead put it this way: "The prolongation of outworn forms of life means a slow decadence in which there is repetition without any fruit in the reaping of value. There may be high survival power. For decadence, undisturbed by originality or by external forces, is a slow process...There remains the show of civilization, without any of its realities."

There is presently nothing at the Gagosian level of attention that will address the shortage of real light amongst its participants. In the meantime, Brown is having fun at the same time she is working hard, and we can too. That's a pretty good alternative, as long as the real McCoy is not available.



October 19, 2006, 11:12 PM

Earlier on I found myself staring at the acid green swipe that sits on top of the painting (on the lower edge to the right), so there may be something to your criticism, catfish. With some study, I find I'm not bothered by the predominance of green around the edge, but by the whole-image frame that results from the more carefully rendered flora around the edges. And I'm starting to see how the flurry in the middle is vibrating itself *loose* from the ground; it's sorta like running into a cloud of noseeums that block your vision by getting in your nose.



October 19, 2006, 11:36 PM

Ahab, I wish I could. it is easier with some painters than others. When I was commenting on the Bas paintings sometime ago I could clearly point out technical faults in the painting becuase I could clearly see all the places where he tried and failed.

Brown doesn't give us that luxury because the entire painitng is a deliberate mass of obscuring marks, a mass of what I tell my students is the "evil smudge": the tendency of oil paint to quickly overblend into inertness. What can I liken it to? Perhaps in ballet, when, after they do all the hard slow things, the star does 16 pirouettes and the audience goes wild?

She is cheating on us, suggesting that these amorous figures are being obscured for some "significant" reason in that whirlwind of paint, when the real reason is that painted realistically, with care, would immediately expose her inability to paint well at all. Just look at the reclining figure in picture #2 above! And the skull with heads for faces! Good grief!

Step back, next time you see one on the wall, and squint until you can't see the parts, and notice how utterly dead the composition goes, how she stints on constructing with values because she can't maintain them, how the parts only "add up" to inert masses of paint, how the colors go sour as soon as they are allowed to emerge from the cacaphony.

I see this so clearly because I did the same thing when I was learning how to paint. I think everyone has. You paint that arm over and over and it just gets worse and worse so you deliberately mush it up and make it look odd and proudly announce "ART". My first teacher just smiled and said "get it right". He was onto it. So am I.



October 19, 2006, 11:42 PM

BTW, Miamians, if you want to see someone who can throw paint all over the place and make art out of it, go see Davis Marsh's paintings at Edge Zone.



October 19, 2006, 11:43 PM

That's David, not Davis. It's getting late.


that guy

October 20, 2006, 12:29 AM

Franklin, I give you permission to revise this essay until you realize that the whelpess can’t paint so hot. Catfish's comment and reasoning behind her success is spot on. A few others have told me the same thing behind closed doors. Not much to argue with here. The paintings choke up like the mets in the 9th inning. Woulda shoulds coulda, but in the end they don't deliver.


Sneekie Piet

October 20, 2006, 1:30 AM

Those David Marsh paintings are the pits! Concur on the throwing paint around remark, but not at all concerning the art portion of same remark, only in the most charitable usage could that be true.



October 20, 2006, 9:44 AM

Go look again , Sneekie



October 20, 2006, 1:20 PM

Yes her earlier work was very dekooning-esque, but I feel her more recent work has a lot more depth and less surface play. I think it's pretty lush.

Perhaps since her father was a critic she had early entry into the scene and thought about how to position herself. Perhaps she had guidance that other newbies don't. I'm not clear why her gender is important or worth noting.

re: 36 catfish:
I am pondering your comment the popularity right now of attractive woman painters (I believe you said "cute girl" actually) who work with sexual content that attracts both male and female audiences. Then you mention Lynda Bengalis as an example from long ago, of which i don't get the comparison b/c she was a sculptor for the most part. I think she may have sculpted a penis or two? I don't remember. I lot of visceral and squishy stuff with a feminist twist. She is a woman artist and maybe was a hottie back in the day. Is that the comparison? That using sexual imagery gets them attention, and being a cute girl doesn't hurt either?

Please clarify if you so desire.

re: franklin, in your intro:
You also make note that, of late, there are quite a number of famous woman painters, young in age, working with "erotic" figurative imagery, ... "and capable of an equally comely headshot".

Comely is such an antiquated term. Do you mean that all these woman artists are hotties and this helps them get the attention that they don't necessarily deserve?

Just curious.



October 20, 2006, 1:39 PM

You can easily find information using these dang miraculous things called search engines (they're so easy to use) that will show/tell you about the particular incident that brought Lynda Benglis some notoriety. Gosh, the search engine will even correct your spelling (Benglis not Bengalis)! Her work stands up to and overrides this incident, but she had a real point. Anyone interested in the context in which this incident took place might look into the catalog for High Times, Hard Times currently at the Weatherspoon Art Museum.


Marc Country

October 20, 2006, 1:39 PM

Yes, I too am disingenuously naive, and would like you all to answer for your blatant sexism as well...

"Antiquated" is such an antiquated term, dontcha think?



October 20, 2006, 1:41 PM

Mek, the statement, cut and pasted, reads thusly:

"With no effort, I can think of a several famous painters of Cecily Brown's age, working with some kind of erotically tinged figural variant, and capable of an equally comely headshot."

Compare yours:

"You also make note that, of late, there are quite a number of famous woman painters, young in age, working with 'erotic' figurative imagery, ... "and capable of an equally comely headshot.'"

You mention her gender. I did not. And you ask:

"Do you mean that all these woman artists are hotties and this helps them get the attention that they don't necessarily deserve?"

I suspect that the question is asked in bad faith.



October 20, 2006, 2:16 PM

Chris: Thank you for the spelling correction. Your link did not provide to be an adequate source of information or reference. I am familiar with her work. In fact I met her once. Still don't see the comparision. Please provide information as to why BENGLIS was chosen as an example in the context provided (by Catfish). Dang, the internet is mysterious indeed.

Marc, I don't think of "antiquated" as being antiquated.

Franklin: Please answer the question. Let me rephrase it for you. Why did you find it necessary to include that the artist provided an equally comely headshot? Would you have made the same notation if SHE were a male artist?

Thanks in advance for any insight you may provide.
I may not respond until tomorrow as I am now off to the beach with my daughter.



October 20, 2006, 2:49 PM

re: 36 catfish:
I can't say how good they are or are not because I've not seen them in person, but I know they are not great pictures.

I hevn't seen enough of CB's paintings to say one way ot the other. I think the scale doesn't come across in the jpegs. There seems to be a lot of nit-picking going on here, nobody hits it right on every painting. I think her paintings are better than most.

So Catfish, do you think anyone is making "great pictures" now? If so, who?



October 20, 2006, 3:34 PM





October 20, 2006, 4:05 PM

mek, re #48:

You wrote in #44, "I think she (Benglis) may have sculpted a penis or two? I don't remember."

And Catfish wrote in #36, "Lynda Bengalis went over (in her youth) with a similar assortment of assets (though not exactly the same)."

Neither of these exactly true, at least in terms of this discussion. Benglis may have sculpted a penis, and she may have had "assets," but these are irrelevant to the discussion about Brown. The link I provided in #45 was meant to show that what each of you said are mistaken impressions from her actions, which had nothing to do with using "feminine wiles" for career gains (and which is a tiresome topic often loaded with sexist bias because it is typically introduced by men and fails to address the greater issue of the kinds of advantages and disadvantages faced by groups of all types usually delineated by race, sex, age, economic level, etc.; btw, I'm white, male, 49).

Carter Ratcliff wrote, "Benglis's self-portrait with dildo and sunglasses has become one of the icons of American art. To lump in Benglis with Brown is to totally misunderstand Benglis's actions, motivations, and intentions. Read Ratcliff's the fate of a gesture: lynda benglis. It's an interesting story about an interesting time.



October 20, 2006, 4:22 PM

MEK: Benglis took out an ad in ARTFORUM back in the 70s that pictured her more or less naked (I should remember) holding a very large dildo. It made a big splash for a short time.

A few years later I was on a selection jury with her in Houston. She seemed nice enough and had a pretty good eye.

I don't think Marc really meant that "antiquated" was antiquated. It seems apparent that he was poking fun at the idea that any useful English word is "antiquated".

And Franklin was clearly implying that a comely head shot didn't hurt in the reputation business. And even if he did say "she", so what? And what are you implying? That women (and men) never use their looks to get ahead? Or that a man is forbdidden to make such an observation? Come on! This is just poking around to get some kind of guilt trip going, and he is not going for it, obviously.

Are those Riopelles. George? They are Ok but not great.



October 20, 2006, 5:14 PM

Sorry, Mek, the rephrased question evinces equally bad faith.



October 20, 2006, 7:08 PM

I debated on responding further, but the more I read the more I pissed off I got …
In #36. Catfish says…

About her success: it makes sense to me. There is a certain combination of a cute girl who works with sex in a way that appeals to most men and a lot of women,

So? What’s new?

and who is a decent painter,

Good enough for grad school? Yippee! Could have stopped right there if you didn't feel so threatened that her star has eclipsed yours.

and bold enough to reference AE in a way that is watered down enough to avoid scaring those who would be scared if they were forced to think AE was still alive.

Well, pardon me while I puke. Let’s see, what could I say about slobbery abstract paintings with no ambition past whatever initial impetus started them rolling off the production line? Don’t ask, your remark can be applied, with the same caustic inferences, to 90% of the painters alive today, including you know who.

That isn't what makes her successful.
Good thing you realize this, so why are we talking about it?

But it may have something to do why Gagosian picked up on her, and how she goes over.

Oops, you slipped back again.
Why do you think LG actually picked her up?
How many "cute girl" artists are there? (it’s a penis-dildo thing)
Sex is a major preoccupation for the young. Along with death, sex is one of the major classic themes of art and fairly common in the local galleries. I'm old enouh to remember sex and as I recall I liked it ;-)

So why? Because all you have to do is look at her paintings to realize there is a real ambition behind her developing skills. The future is what sells, the prospect that a young artist will mature into a great one given the chance. Of course LG will make a lot of money off her work but then that is his job

Lynda Benglis went over (in her youth) with a similar assortment of assets (though not exactly the same).

I’m gagging again. I knew Linda at the time she made the controversial ArtForum ad. It was a ribald feminist statement at the time of the initial phases of the feminist movement.
It was good PR too but so what? Caused a heck of a stir at the magazine. As an artist, Linda had already established herself as an up and coming artist taking a position against the rigors of minimalism.
Penises, I am sure the woman readers already understand, but for the uninitiated, there is a difference between a penis and a didlo. Linda made double ended dildos, including one cast in solid gold as I recall. The object in the ad was a double ended dildo, a clear symbolic statement against the chauvinism in the artwould at the time. She’s a pretty good artist in my opinion.

Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other about Cecily Brown’s paintings, I just haven’t seen enough of them. One thing I can tell for sure is that her work is very ambitious and great or not, her paintings are better than most, more difficult, riskier and lead me to believe that if she can survive the pressures in the marketplace she will make great paintings.



October 20, 2006, 7:19 PM

My goodness, George, I am envious of Catfish. I can't get you riled up like that.

I'm confused. "clear symbolic statement against the chauvinism in the artworld at the time"? "Ribald feminist statement?"

Not a publicity stunt capitalizing on her (forgive me) "cute girl" characteristics?

These things seem to slip into any handy disguise anyone wants them in.

Oh well. Halowe'en is nigh.



October 20, 2006, 7:32 PM


Linda was very sexy but I would have characterized her as "cute"



October 20, 2006, 7:36 PM

Oops there was a typo in #56 which entirely changed the indended meaning, meant to say...


Linda was very sexy but I wouldn't have characterized her as "cute"



October 20, 2006, 7:40 PM

Looks like I said something that got through to several different folks. No need to clarify that I can see. One thing, though, to opie: LB was "more" rather than "less" naked. Besides the double ender, the only other thing she wore was a pair of sunglasses and maybe some olive oil. Yum. The photo reeked of pure estrogen. Double yum.



October 20, 2006, 7:48 PM

Re your typo, George, as Sigmund would have said, "'oops' indeed!"

Thanks, Catfish. When I met her, not that much later, she seemed much more dowdy, and, as far as I could tell, was not sporting any artificial appendages.



October 20, 2006, 7:52 PM

Oh yes! I remember seeing a re-print of the ad now. How could I forget? That's not all she's done btw. But yes, that was quite the statement in it's time. Again, what does Benglis have to do with Brown? Other than they are both women and artists. Not getting the comparison Catfish came up with, nor has anyone defended it.

Franklin, you have not addressed my question about the comely head shot. Why dodge?

opie: Thanks for the insight into marc's comment. Got it the first time around however.

No one is addressing my point, but I am not surprised.



October 20, 2006, 8:01 PM

No one is obliged to "address your point" MEK. Maybe no one finds it interesting.

By the way, what is your point?.



October 20, 2006, 8:02 PM

I'm not Franklin, MEK. But here is a comely head shot anyway.



October 20, 2006, 10:03 PM

Typical response, old P. Your dismissive tone is part of your cantankerous charm. Since you ask, here are my points once more. 1) I don't understand the comparison between Benglis and Brown, and, 2) I don't understand the proposed notion that a lot of young, woman artists today gain considerable notariety because their (comely headshot) hotness factor helps sell the work. I was responding to the thread AND the points I brought up merit discussion.



October 20, 2006, 10:24 PM

Why am I "dodging" a question with a faulty premise and an answer you've already decided for yourself before I give mine, which likely won't change yours? Do you really need me to tell you, Mek?



October 20, 2006, 11:13 PM

Well, MEK, that is a lack of understanding, not a "point"

Catfish wrote:

"About her success: it makes sense to me. There is a certain combination of a cute girl who works with sex in a way that appeals to most men and a lot of women, and who is a decent painter, and bold enough to reference AE in a way that is watered down enough to avoid scaring those who would be scared if they were forced to think AE was still alive. That isn't what makes her successful. But it may have something to do why Gagosian picked up on her, and how she goes over. Lynda Bengalis went over (in her youth) with a similar assortment of assets (though not exactly the same)."

This implies that Lynda Benglis, like Cecily Brown, also used feminine assets to succeed. You may disagree with this comparison, or dislike it, but it is certainly not hard to understand.

Franklin wrote:

"With no effort, I can think of a several famous painters of Cecily Brown's age, working with some kind of erotically tinged figural variant, and capable of an equally comely headshot. Ms. Brown can outpaint all of them."

This implies that comeliness may have something to do with success. Again, pretty clear.

So, what's the problem?



October 20, 2006, 11:16 PM

Franklin, based on your opening statement, one could factor you into the mix. I have seen your comely headshot. I felt that you made mention of it because of her gender, and you will presumably argue that you did not mention gender so therefore it was not implied. So on those grounds I have no stance. This is a dance we have done before which is tiresome at best.



October 20, 2006, 11:21 PM

We all need to send in our comeliest head shots and vote and the one voted the comeliest gets a show at Gagossian.



October 20, 2006, 11:31 PM

Her paintings ARE sexy like cumely head shots!



October 20, 2006, 11:34 PM

1) What sort of FEMININE ASSETS? Of course I disagree. By stating I do not understand the comparison means that one of you who does should explain it, in a detailed fashion, direct and to the point.
2) I already addressed the comeliness factor. And I am certain that it was gender specific.

and #67: Strap on your feminine asset and you are bound to win. The voting is rigged around here.

As always, Boys, chatting with you has been the high point of an otherwise droll existence.



October 20, 2006, 11:54 PM

"What sort of feminine assets"? This is silly, MEK. If you are trying to whip up a gender debate you will have to be a little more clear and specific about just what you are objecting to. And in a "detailed fashion".



October 20, 2006, 11:56 PM

Ok, I have to admit It took me awhile to understand that "an equally comely headshot" was referring to an 8x10 glossy press photo, right?

From my critical point of view, it seems like a strange first sentence to start a review. Basically it sets the tone for what comes next. The reader (me at least) has their attention switched, from the paintings, to the fact that Cecily Brown is an attractive woman. Why would I care about this? To the point, it turned this thread towards the subject. I don’t see the same type of remark made about "cute men", handsome if you wish. It has nothing to do with the art, nothing at all. It may have something to do with success in the sense that people form personal relationships and this can be helpful to a career. So what? It is commonplace and hardly worth mentioning unless one is inferring that the person somehow achieved something they didn’t deserve.

I know this is not what Franklin intended, at least I hope it is not what he intended but the course of the dialogue that followed made these assumptions. I see no relationship at all between Benglis and Brown, other than they are both women with last names that start with B, never the less the discussion degraded from there.



October 21, 2006, 12:31 AM

This is a dance we have done before which is tiresome at best.

It is a dance I have learned to decline when you offer it.

When was referring to the other painters, in my mind, I had included some men. I didn't name their names, as they have too much mention already. And when I said she can outpaint them, I included them there too. I could tell by your questions that you had already decided your answer, and #69 confirms it. That's what I mean by bad faith.



October 21, 2006, 12:48 AM


I disagree here. If you are intending to write serious criticism the point I mentioned in comment #71 is a faux pas. As I said I don't think you did it intentionally but, in my opinion, derailed the review by bring up something which should be irrelevant when writing criticism. The construction of the first sentence links sex and attractiveness. Given the subject of Brown’s work, the references to her eroticism are appropriate but they have nothing to do with her appearance. Male artists have made erotic art for ages and I have yet to read a review which pointed out how attractive the artist was.

I think it is worth noting that at least a couple of readers felt there were underlying sexist overtones. It may not have been what you meant but it is how you were misunderstood, both by those who object and by those who turned it into a nudge nudge wink wink joke.



October 21, 2006, 1:08 AM

Hi George.

How work finds its way into the halls of Gagosian is part of its cultural context, no?

There are stories of Pollock "servicing" his main patron, right? Most believe they are true, too. Maybe they're not about how cute Pollock was (and I do think he was cute), but they are about his sexuality and how he "made it", so to speak.


Sneekie Piet

October 21, 2006, 1:09 AM

Without looking again, I can tell you that Marsh's paintings are still the pits.

Men use male assests in order to succeed all the time. A sad thing about our society is that men can still talk as if only women use their gendered assets. Benglis was actually commenting on the same when she made the dildo ad.

If any women do have the bitter fortune of being attractive or wealthy, it throws the nature of their success into question immediately, even when accessorizing with dick, while the real crotch-grabbers succeed because of Talent, Hard Work, and Perseverence.

Yeah. Right.



October 21, 2006, 1:35 AM

Re #74 Cat,

So? It's gossip which doesn't have anything to do with the art. I think Franklins writing was intended as a review not a piece for the gossip column. A lot of the readers of this blog champion Greenberg as a model of clear and effective art criticism, why all of a sudden are you offering up more gossip concerning Pollock? It has nothing to do with his art.

I am interested in Cecily Brown's paintings. I do not know how she came to be represented by Gagosian, nor do I care. Business, any business is furthered by relationships, connections between people. These connections get made for all sorts of reasons, under all sorts of circumstances, it's a fact of life which has been true for ages.



October 21, 2006, 3:16 AM

Does N.Y. city now epitomize 'provinciality' - was Robert Hughes a 'Soothsayer' ?



October 21, 2006, 7:01 AM

George wrote:

" Business, any business is furthered by relationships, connections between people. These connections get made for all sorts of reasons, under all sorts of circumstances, it's a fact of life which has been true for ages."

Obviously, And Franklin has as much legitimate reason to comment on some aspect of this as he does to talk about calligraphy. We yell and scream about censorship all the time and then turn around and lobby to forbid perfectly ordinarily comments like "comely headshot". Of course men are horny pigs, and they do have most of the money and power and of course women use "feminine assets" to get what they want. And both sexes abuse these circumstances all the time.

We may dislike all this but suppressing mention of instances of it is not the way to change it..



October 21, 2006, 8:12 AM

BTW George, Greenberg loved gossip. He thought people were much more interesting than art.



October 21, 2006, 9:30 AM

Opie says "We may dislike all this ..." But in our hearts, everyone, including George, loves gossip. Gossip without nastiness is gossip without a back bone. The president of the university where I work once said: "If you don't have something bad to say about somebody, please go sit next to someone else."

Long live the horny pig. Long live the cock tease. Long live the money grubber. Long live the power broker. They drive the art world, just like they drive every other world.



October 21, 2006, 9:47 AM

George, about your #76 ...

Let's speculate about what might have happened if Jackson Pollock had not succeeded in keeping Peggy Guggenhiem happy with him. It is entirely possible that the work that seems so inevitable to us today may never have been seen except by a few elitists like Greenberg, most of whom would be dead by now. In such a case Pollock's work never would have had the influence on the culture of serious painting that it has had. Nor would he have been invited to the party where he peed in her fireplace - and so the left-wing avant-gardists would have lost a role model for what we now call "performative art".

Culture is a fragile thing that seems to track like a leaf in the wind. It is amazing how it ever amounts to anything, isn't it?



October 21, 2006, 10:28 AM

Of course people love gossip, that's not the point. Nor is censorship, I don't want to censor Franklin, if he wants to write a gossip column, that's ok, get some real gossip. If the readers here want gossip and sexual innuendo, then I would suggest reading Charlie Finch’s column on Artnet, it’s his stock in trade but he has lost the respect of many artists for it.

When I looked at the reproductions of Cecily Browns paintings, and recall the reproductions of Franklin’s earlier oil paintings, I can see certain similarities in sensibility and thought Franklin might be both more sensitive to Brown’s work and more insightfully critical at the same time. My remarks directed to Franklin, were my opinions, I would rather see insightful criticism without the other baggage. I find it completely disingenuous to champion "clear and insightful" criticism, to hold up Greenberg as a paradigm, and then all of a sudden make an exception because the artist in question is a woman.

While I frequently disagree with Jack, I respect his response in comment 28, it was about his perception of her work, without making allusions to all the other side references. I can also understand the gossipy snipes in some of the other responses. When an artist receives a lot of acclaim, and you’re not, it is easy to try and dismiss the success by attaching some other reasons to it. After all, we all work our butts off trying to achieve this same success, and may be disillusioned when it doesn’t come our way. While I know many other factors play a major role in determining the commercial success of an artist, I still believe it primarily comes down to the work itself.



October 21, 2006, 10:37 AM

Re #81: Catfish,

I am not sure what your point is. If you are suggesting that people form personal relationships to advance their careers, I don't disagree. it's true. So what? Are you suggesting that it makes the art better? I's just gossip.



October 21, 2006, 10:45 AM

Saltz: "In nearly every case, it seems that these faces must be young, white, heterosexual, and pretty to count as one of the 'hot new artists.'"

Ken Johnson: "...she appeared in a glossy, double-page photo spread in Vanity Fair magazine for an article about the moment's hottest young painters. Wearing paint-spattered jeans and a T-shirt with a big dollar sign printed on it, she reclined in a languorously sexy pose on her messy studio floor."

George, add it up: I put down one sentence that involved her person, all but negated its importance in the following one, and dealt with her work and only her work thereafter. If the first disqualifies my work as "insightful criticism," then you have standards of propriety that I don't intend to meet.

I think it is worth noting that at least a couple of readers felt there were underlying sexist overtones.

It's those hypothetical couple of readers that I can't worry about if I'm going to write anything worth a damn.



October 21, 2006, 11:27 AM

Opie said, This is the pomo version of the 10th street abstract expressionism of the 50s and 60s. which I dismissed with I doubt Brown gives a hoot about 10th street. Maybe there is more to this than I originally implied.

Opie is from a generation which had a more intimate familiarity with AE, it was what was happening (or ending) at a particular moment in time and naturally he would be more familiar with the historical details. Cecily Brown, started art school 25 years after it all happened, her connection to AE is filtered through reproductions, written text and museum visits. Her exposure to AE was all happening after the fact, modified by changes in the culture and thinking of her generation. While this doesn’t change the paintings, it changes how she will perceive them. The AE painters were far enough back in history to become a fresh source of inspiration again. She was able to engage with the style naively, with a different intellectual approach more specific to her generation.

I think AE paintings resonated with her sensibility, the looser more expressionist paint handling was exciting to her, exciting to do, to emulate and to try and extend into the present. She does it with a degree of bravado and little restraint, the paintings are not timid, to the contrary, they are grand and ambitious.

In recent times the audience, the other artists and collectors, have had a preference for both representation and "juicy paint". Brown’s paintings seemed to fit into the current zeitgeist which is why I believe she is successful.

On the other hand, abstraction has been somewhat out of favor but I also sense it is gaining a new interest by some of the younger artists. The problem is how to make the various approaches feel fresh again, to breath new life back into the form.



October 21, 2006, 11:32 AM

Hey Franklin, I know what has been written about her, the same kind of stuff was written about Hope Atherton. It doesn't say much about the work. It's just my opinion but it's your article, write want you want.



October 21, 2006, 12:00 PM

Yes George, Cecily Brown is doing something similar to what Manet and others did when they robbed Goya and Delacroix. Manet found value in the old hat painters that he could not find in those who dominated what was the current art scene of the time.

That Brown recognizes the bankruptcy of left wing avant-gardism is to be commended, and I respect her for that. Unfortunately, and hard as it is to go against the view of the herd, recognizing what's bad is the easier part of making major art. Generating something seiously good is the next step. Opie's "evil smudge" doesn't make the cut, even if it is a step in the right direction.

I don't pine to be as successful in the world as Brown, though I would like to be a lot more successful than I am. This fact of my own situation does not change my observation of how Brown got into hers. I see what I see. BTW, try reading Jane; some cute girls are not embarrassed about acting like cute girls. It's a real interesting read, if you are fascinated by girls with gonads. It's like being a fly on the wall in their powder room.


Sneekie Piet

October 21, 2006, 12:30 PM

JANE is a bullshit magazine, catfish. Try reading BITCH for a glimpse into real bathroom convos. Powder rooms are antiquated spaces, hard to find nowadays too.

George, should "bravado" have been "bravada"? The link tween Franklin's painterly figurative work and Brown's is very interesting to explore. Franklin's (usually female) nudes recline, lounge and languish (sometimes), while Brown's fuck, frolic and fight. In Franklin's new work, women are liberated from both nudity and inaction, bravo!



October 21, 2006, 12:32 PM

re 87
I can’t say whether or not Brown "recognizes the bankruptcy of left wing avant-gardism" or not. I suspect it had more to do with just wanting to paint in an expressive way and going ahead and doing it. The question of "making the cut" is one we all deal with. I’ve looked at all 840 of Van Gogh’s paintings several times and it’s interesting how some work better than others. In particular, making comparisons of the paintings where he made more than one version of the same subject, many starting from an almost identical initial drawing.

re 88
Si, "bravada" :-)



October 21, 2006, 12:41 PM

I can’t say whether or not Brown "recognizes the bankruptcy of left wing avant-gardism" or not. I suspect it had more to do with just wanting to paint in an expressive way and going ahead and doing it.

Two ways of saying the same thing, George. I agree with both of them.

BITCH sounds interesting, Sneak. I'll see if I can find a copy. Powder rooms, though, exist where ever girls gather to talk amongst themselves. There is no requirement that it even be a room, as far as I can tell. Just make sure there are no boys present.



October 21, 2006, 1:36 PM

Just for the record, George, I have absolutely no argument with borrowing from de Kooning et al. I wish more people would. But the paintings have to live up to it.

When a tiny spark like "comely headshot" can ignite such a fire there must a lot of unlit tinder lying around.



October 21, 2006, 1:48 PM

opie, I agree. I was suprised at how the discussion ran off on a tangent which to me seems to have nothing to do with her paintings.



October 21, 2006, 2:36 PM

For what it's worth at this point, what I've seen of Benglis's work has made no impression on me. I don't dislike it, but it's of no particular interest. I did not know about her supposedly "iconic" photo, which may impress the folks who design covers for New Times but strikes me as a cheesy publicity stunt, too crude (as in heavy-handed and obvious) to be taken seriously--by me, at any rate. I don't care what her stated or imputed intent was, just as I don't care what Koons gets up to with his porn-star wife in the name of art, or why he supposedly does it, or what it supposedly signifies. I simply don't give a shit. Don't even ask me about Matthew Barney (whose "comeliness" is regularly commented upon in print). They can all go to...Vogue, Vanity Fair or some such purveyor of what they're selling. Just leave me out of it.

I've never seen a photo of Cecily Brown, unless the "comely head shot" linked by Catfish is a photo of her. I don't care what she looks like, wears, or is photographed doing. The erotic, pornographic or whatever element in her work is only of interest if she manages to handle it in a visually interesting way. Again, I don't care what it's supposed to mean; either it works as visual art or it doesn't. I'm sick of all these people falling all over themselves on account of secondary considerations or even outright gimmicks. It's not only tiresome but embarrassing. Just look at the damn work, as such.


Marc Country

October 21, 2006, 4:06 PM

I was in a bookstore a few months back, and came across "BITCH" in the magazine racks.. I picked up the stack of copies, and took them out of the 'women's magazines' section, placing them next to the copies of "Dog Lover" and "Pet Fancy" instead. Needless to say, I was very amused with myself, but regretted that I couldn't hang around to see other people pick up on the joke as well...

I was going to add some other comments earlier (and appreciatively welcome catfish's comments, which I don't think I've seen on here for a while), but it seemed like a pointless waste to throw my two cents into the parade of embarrassment that this "debate" has been. CLEARLY, Franklin's initial point was precisely that the 'headshot' is of little artistic importance, despite it being clearly a matter of 'artworld' importance. 'Nuff said.

I will second catfish's comment about this being strong BFA work, with the only caveat being that, in some places (such as where I live) it would probably be considered strong MFA work, but in the 'artworld' it seems to be held up as strong professional-level work. These varying degrees of appreciation have more to do with a contextual dearth of quality.... if you're used to better, than this won't do... but if your expectations have been lowered sufficiently, then Brown might seem more talented than she actually is.

So, yeah, I'm definitely not over the moon about this stuff, but, then again, strong BFA-MFA level work is nothing to sneeze at, exactly. If fame and fortune don't ruin her, Brown might become a damn fine painter... someday.



October 21, 2006, 7:38 PM

re #94: Marc,

Your late to the party, the booze is gone, the chips stale and Jack’s already pissed in the fireplace. Certainly any young painter, with work half as good as Cecily Brown’s, would be admitted to any graduate school in the country. Unfortunately they don’t come out of the schools as accomplished as she is.

It’s not about being able to make a painting that looks like hers, it’s about being able to make the painting that in five years will be seen in the same vein. A painting which is a fresh look at painting and not just a rehash of something from ArtForum in the last five years. It is also about having the ambition and the willingness to do what it takes to get the work into the current dialog of painting, to get them seen.

I think all this MFA-BFA talk is a crock. If it was so easy to make a successful painting (or sculpture, or…) then people would be doing it. The plain fact is that they are not. I look at a lot of art, some of it is acceptable, a lot of it is not and every once in awhile I see something very good. It has nothing to do with a "contextual dearth of quality", historically the current situation is the same as it has always been, there are a few really good artists, even fewer great ones, and everyone else just fills up the space that is left over.

You are talking the talk, bit can you walk the walk? Show me the beef.



October 21, 2006, 7:53 PM

Here's some beef:

[And here's a link tutorial. - F.]
(I'm sorry about the drag and drop.)
Note that ironicaly the painting is sighted at 'Brown' University.


Sneekie Piet

October 21, 2006, 10:22 PM

Marc, ha ha, misogynism, what a riot!



October 22, 2006, 11:20 PM

from what i've heard, it was mondrian who initially had to force pollock upon peggy and jam him down her throat before she was a believer


Sneekie Piet

October 23, 2006, 8:01 AM

I'm sneekier now than I used to be.



October 23, 2006, 9:06 AM

Post-talent, anti-hardwork, and counter-perseverance (#75)? You're not as sneeky as you think you are.


Moby Prick

October 23, 2006, 6:57 PM

Been out at sea too long, ahab? Piet didn't say any of that.
The crotch-grab is a hair more subtle than the Gug-gag, but you're right, he could be sneekier yet.



October 24, 2006, 7:30 PM

jimmy ernst, whose father max was married to peggy, did say that about piet concerning peggy and pollock.



October 24, 2006, 8:24 PM

#1 did not phrase it exactly accurately, Moby, but he is basically right. Mondrian was quite taken with Pollock - I think it was one of the pictures in an early group show at Peggy's gallery; Mondrian may have been a judge for the exhibit. He recommended Pollock after she put the picture down, if I remember correctly. I don't remember the exact details but the story is in the books and I heard it indirectly from Greenberg as well.

Go check out your art history before you shoot off your mouth.



October 24, 2006, 8:26 PM

COLOR FIELD PAINTING appropraited by Mass Media.



October 24, 2006, 8:31 PM

oops, appropriated

Behind the scenes, hint: no brushes were used



October 24, 2006, 8:44 PM

George, dude, I just put that on the roundup.



October 24, 2006, 8:48 PM

True, but YouTube works on all computers even mine.


Moby Prick

October 25, 2006, 9:39 PM

I wasn't talking about the REAL Piet, opie. Why not take an extra moment to reconsider shooting off your own mouth before you take anybody else to task?



October 25, 2006, 11:17 PM

Sorry, Moby. These threads get very hard to follow sometimes.



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