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Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Press preview:
Wednesday, Nov. 13, 10 a.m. – noon.
Curatorial remarks at 10:30 a.m.
R.S.V.P. (202) 357-1618 ext. 3

“Directions–Cecily Brown,” featuring seven lush, large-scale oil paintings by the London-born, New York-based artist (b. 1969), opens at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on Thursday, Nov. 14, and continues through March 2, 2003. The museum is located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W.

This first solo museum show for Brown traces her career from an early untitled work (1997), in which vigorously rendered rabbits stand in for human figures, through gestural abstractions developed from erotically charged scenes–such as the flesh-toned “Hoodlum” (2000-2001) in the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection (pictured above right)–to her recent explorations, represented by the landscape-inspired “Bacchanal” (2001).

Commenting on her work, the artist says that, “…the experience of looking is like the experience of painting.” She will discuss her work in a “Meet the Artist” gallery talk in the third-floor Directions Gallery at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 14, the opening day of the exhibition.

“Brown’s explosive work exudes creative energy and suggests generative life forces. It celebrates the human capacity for pleasure and renewal,” says the Hirshhorn’s curator of paintings, Judith Zilczer, who organized the show.

Born in London, Brown attended London’s Slade School of Art where she pursued a childhood love of drawing and rejected the more conceptual and often overtly shocking art practice of her contemporaries–the “Young British Artists”–who dominated the art world at that time. In 1994, she moved to Manhattan and worked as a film animator. The following year, she produced hundreds of lyrical watercolors of erotic imagery to make the short animated film “Four Letter Heaven” (screening at the Hirshhorn on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m.).

From that experience, Brown began to develop multifigure compositions in oil, first using cartoonlike bunnies as surrogates for people and then replacing them with human figures between 1998 and 1999. Her art historical influences ranged from the otherworldly religious imagery of 15th-century Netherlandish painter Hieronymous Bosch to Willem de Kooning’s 20th-century Abstract Expressionist interpretations of nudes. The artist reveals only subtle glimpses of her animal and human figures beneath the layers of abstract brushwork and kaleidoscopic arrays of color. Most recently, she has turned to the classical landscape tradition of the 17th-century French painter Nicolas Poussin. In some of these works, one can see the relationship between human poses and the “body language” of trees.

Brown has also incorporated her own body and references to popular film in her paintings. Imprints of the artist’s torso and lips appear in “Dogday Afternoon” (1999). Titled after a Hollywood movie, the work evokes the French artist Yves Klein’s orchestrated “happenings” of the mid-20th century, wherein the artist used mostly female models as human “brushes” transferring their painted bodies directly to canvas or paper. The dynamic forms and vivid colors of “Father of the Bride” (1998-1999) have a joyous quality akin to the light-hearted cinematic romance of the same name.

The artist’s work, which is represented in such major public collections as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Tate Modern, London; and the Seattle Museum of Art, has also been included in the “Greater New York” show at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York (2000); the Bienal de Valencia, Spain (2001); as well as numerous other group shows. Brown’s paintings have been the subject of solo shows at commercial galleries in New York, Berlin, London and Beverly Hills.

The exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Trellis Fund and contributions to the Hirshhorn’s Curator’s Circle with additional support from Olga Hirshhorn. A free illustrated brochure is available.

The Hirshhorn Museum’s hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., seven days a week (closed Dec. 25). By Metrorail, take the L’Enfant Plaza Metro stop, exit at Maryland Avenue and Seventh Street. Admission to the museum is free.


Thursday, Nov. 14, 12:30 p.m.
“Gallery Talk: Meet the Artist”
Join Cecily Brown for a discussion of her work. Directions Gallery, third floor.

Friday, Nov. 22, 1-3 p.m.
“Art Explorers Workshop for Adults: Exposed!”
Visit “Directions–Cecily Brown” and then join painter Teri Phillips on a visual journey in painting to explore personal imagery. Meet at the Information Desk. Space is limited and preregistration is required; call (202) 357-3235 ext. 116.

Thursday, Feb. 13, 2003, 8 p.m.
Films: “Four Letter Heaven” (1995) and “Decasia” (2002)
Bill Morrison’s lyrical montage of black-and-white vintage film fragments follows Brown’s animated short. Shown in conjunction with “Art After Hours: Hirshhorn Heartfest.” Ring Auditorium.

Friday, Feb. 14, 2003, 12:30 p.m.
“Gallery Talk: Cecily Brown and the Romance of Painting”
Join curator of paintings Judith Zilczer for a discussion of the exhibition. Meet at the Information Desk.

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