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Cecily Brown

October 18, 2006 - January 15, 2007


The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) presents Cecily Brown, an exhibition of paintings by contemporary artist Cecily Brown, whose richly layered canvases are among some of the most engaging paintings being made today. The exhibition comprises more than 20 works, all made within the last 10 years, and is the first museum survey of Brown's work held in the United States. Organized by the Des Moines Art Center, the MFA is the only east coast venue for this exhibition. Cecily Brown is on view in the MFA's Foster Gallery from October 18, 2006 through January 15, 2007.

"We are pleased to be the only east coast venue for this important exhibition of the work of Cecily Brown, a leading figure in contemporary art," said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. "Paintings created as recently as summer 2006 will round out this 10-year selection of Brown's brilliant and bold canvases, which are always alive with energy and emotion."

Brown's deep respect for the history of art is evident, and she readily acknowledges her inspiration from prominent figures such as 17th century French artist Nicolas Poussin, figurative painter Francis Bacon and Abstract Expressionist William de Kooning. However, unlike the artists in the male-dominated Abstract Expressionist movement, Brown is among a group of women painters who have gained recognition for their distinctive voices and independent approaches to painting.

The act of painting itself is most important to Brown, and her canvases are filled with her passion for the medium. Many of her early vibrant canvases concentrated on human sexuality and sexual tension, yet always as a metaphor for the act of painting. In Couple (2003-04) two erotically entwined figures both dissolve and appear in the painting, and are charged with a pallet of pulsating colors. The physical act of painting is a complicated and sensual experience for Brown who wants it to be a sensual experience for the viewer as well.

Brown avoided the human figure in her earliest canvases and chose instead the image of rabbits because of the freedom they allowed her to explore difficult subjects, such as violence and sexuality, in a fictional environment. Eventually she began to incorporate humans into her paintings as in Tender is the Night (1999), from a series with titles borrowed from recognizable movies. Later in Bacchanal (2001), the artist's palette changed again, and abstract figures are a blur of motion on the canvas, set in a distinct green landscape with rustling trees and a blue sky. Brown uses double images in some of her more recent paintings such as Au'jourdhui Rose (2005), complicating the viewer's own perception of the composition which can either be viewed as the image of two girls and a dog, or that of a skull.

"It is fitting to premier Cecily Brown's work amidst an encyclopedic collection of art," said Cheryl Brutvan, Robert L. Beal, Enid L. and Bruce A. Beal Curator of Contemporary Art at the MFA. "Cecily's paintings have an incomparable sensuality which engages the viewer in unexpected ways. We're so pleased to be able to present this overview of an artist who is creating edgy and dynamic paintings that demand our attention."

Born in London in 1969, Brown was educated at the Slade School of Art (1989-1993). She participated in an exchange program in New York during her third year of college, and decided to move there permanently in 1997. The artist earned critical acclaim for her first New York exhibition at the Deitch Projects in 1997, and then in the London venue of Gagosian Gallery who now represents her. Most recently, she was the subject of solo exhibitions at Modern Art, Oxford, England (2005), Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany (2005) and the N=Museum Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2004).

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