The Gagosian Gallery is currently showing “Come to Dust,” the first major exhibition by British contemporary artist Glenn Brown in London since 2009.
For Brown, the past and present are treasuries of raw material, offering countless images, titles, and techniques to be combined, appropriated, and deconstructed. Based on art history, as well as of literature, music, and popular culture, Brown creates complex and sensuous works of art that are resolutely of our time.
The title of exhibition, is inspired by a song in Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline, which evokes the ineluctability of death. Multidisciplinary artist, the exhibition features oil paintings, drawings in period frames, grisaille panel works, etchings, and sculptures.
Sources include Rembrandt, Delacroix, Greuze, and Raphael, as well as Abraham Bloemaert, Francesco Mancini, Gaetano Gandolfi, Elisabeth Le Brun, and Bernardo Cavallino.
In Brown’s oil paintings, hybrid figures painted in intricate swirls reveal the sumptuous potential of oil paint. While these paintings give the illusion of corporeal volume and fullness, closer scrutiny reveals the surfaces to be smooth and flat.
Rather than using paint to depict skin with observational exactitude, Brown presents translucent brushstrokes revealing the flesh and muscles beneath the surface.
The choice of picture frames adds an additional layer to the richly layered visual anachronism. Inverting the normal order of image-making and framing, Brown treats the frames as readymades, creating drawings in response to the particular colour, size, design, and narrative detail of each. Thus, the drawings and the frames are integral to each other.
In the exhibition, an entire room of recent drawings is hung salon-style, some mounted in elaborate Renaissance gilt and carved wooden frames.
The sculptures are very impressive, elaborate masses built from precisely placed strokes of very thick oil paint. In some of them, the cold, sensuous curves of nineteenth-century bronze statues are still visible but engulfed by growths of pulsating, gravity-defying oil paint. The contrast between the cold, hard metal with the soft, luscious paint is highly captivating.
“Come to Dust” immerses the viewer in Brown’s enigmatic world. The figures and forms of history mutate, overtaken by hypnotic colours and light. Transforming the allure of Old Master paintings and drawings, bordering on profanity, Brown tells a much darker and more complicated story, fit for our times.
View the full set of pics here
Glenn Brown – Come to Dust
Until 17 March 2018
20 Grosvenor Hill
London W1K 3QD