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Cecily Brown Death And The Maid

Sep 18, 2023

Art work © Cecily Brown / Courtesy the artist / Metropolitan Museum of Art

To reach "Cecily Brown: Death and the Maid," on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until Dec. 3, visitors pass through the medieval collection and take a sharp turn at European decorative arts. It's an ideal prelude to the British painter's three-decade survey, priming the eye to spot the historical tropes in her bustling compositions (including "Selfie," from 2020, above), with their slathered pigment, puddled ink, and squirrelly gestures. The show's title alludes to a strain of memento mori in which youthful femininity is shadowed by intimations of the macabre. The buttery sepia-and-pink "Aujourd’hui Rose," from 2005, draws inspiration from a Victorian-era vignette; the dark hair of two young girls forms the eye sockets of a frame-filling skull, a blurred double image that recalls both a Baroque vanitas painting and a T-shirt for the American punk band the Misfits. Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon, and other titans of the twentieth century loom large in Brown's treatment of the figure, even as her art-historical references reach further into the past. The teeming activity of the grand "Father of the Bride," from 1999, calls to mind Jackson Pollock attempting a Breugelian crowd scene. A more recent canvas, "Lobsters, Oysters, Cherries, and Pearls," from 2020, is a bloodbath masquerading as a Flemish still-life (or vice versa), wherein a black cat lurks under a table, out of the fray. The feline's gleaming eyes suggest that, like the artist herself, it is a savvy observer of painting's great themes, sex and death.

Apr. 4-Dec. 3

1000 Fifth Ave.



"Cecily Brown: Death and the Maid,"