Tender is the Night
Cecily Brown, Tender is the Night, 1999
In this painting by Cecily Brown, it's challenging or disturbing in that, that it explodes out. The more you try to find a meaning, an image, and the more it challenges you, the more it pulls apart. You feel another whole history of painting here.
My name is Thomas Houseago. I'm an artist based here in LA.
Tender is the Night, 1999.
What's quite radical is it's taking Arshile Gorky, or de Kooning, these heroes of Abstract Expressionism, who were taking the figure and transforming that into abstraction, in a way, taken on one level, and Cecily is returning that. She's turning that tide. She's refusing to kind of allow that to happen, allow that simplistic reading of painting to abstraction, abstraction to this kind of fantasy of what art could do. She's pulling it back. I think that's why in Cecily's painting, it's both very resonant and also awkward, disturbing, because she's refusing to go with the tide of the 20th century, which is this idea of progression, that you progress and you don't return.
What's interesting about it is it's a very, very pleasurable painting to look at. There are these areas of blues and greens, and they shine through, that are almost iridescent. You also have this, the figure becomes a landscape, it becomes a universe. I think Cecily also looks at paint as matter. I think she doesn't look at paint particularly as a descriptive medium, meaning that you make the paint look like something. She somehow maintains that the paint is something. It is what it's recording. And I think what's fascinating about the piece is that it never settles. It never lets you quite find an image.