Black Painting I
Cecily Brown’s painting often uses the history of sex as depicted in Western art history and reinvents the subject matter through an immediate, direct application of pigment. As critic Johanna Drucker notes, the paintings “flicker at the hallucinatory edge between figural representation and gestural abstraction,” and these flickers can mimic the ranges of touch and flashes of eroticism. As a pictorial strategy, Brown’s paintings never fully coalescence into stable images, but instead delay closure and become a field of often beautiful passages of colorful marks and strokes.
Black Painting 1, 2002, is the first of a series of darkly toned works picturing solitary women as though in the throes of erotic visions. Ambiguous forms hover above the women, like the cloud of fluttering bats that appear in Francisco Goya’s famous etching The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, 1799. However, in Black Painting 1, the cloud is made up of phalluses, which come in and out of view through the application of Brown’s brushstrokes. This vision seems to have impacted the woman lying below, whose body seems to contort and twist with the same energy as the cloud.