Shout Magazine

Mark Kostabi on Cecily Brown

Cecily Brown’s fiercely beautiful, erotically charged paintings are further proof that in the historically male-dominated artworld, the best artists of the 1990s have been women: Sue Williams, Inka Essenhigh, Louise Bourgeois, Tricia Keightley, Alex Bag, Pipilotti Rist, Janet Preston and Cecily Brown.

Often compared to de Kooning (as is Sue Williams, interestingly) a good Cecily Brown painting is certainly as good as, if not better than, an average one by the Dutch master. In an ideal, objective art market, the two artists’ work should be priced the same—not millions of dollars apart. Now that eBay, the on-line auction where anyone can play, is leveling the art market, her prices will rise while his will, shall we say, sober a smidgen. Because of the Internet, more people (millions of them) are looking at art and can judge quality for themselves, as opposed to being told what’s valuable by the hitherto elitist artworld.

In the meantime, this artist (that would be me), Mark Kostabi, suggests that now is the time to go see Cecily Brown’s dynamic, large canvasses, pulsing with energy as they enigmatically hover in an ambiguous space between abstraction and figuration. Brown says that for her, “Painting is a metaphor for sex. I want it caressing, brutal and tender at once.” Featuring elegant, sensuous bodies, sometimes barely discernible within twisted rhapsodies of painterly virtuosity, her paintings evoke the pervasive fragmentation and fracturing of the late 20th century human condition. It will be interesting to see what she has in store for us in the new millennium.

January 2000