Shallow Deaths




by Glenn Brown

This painting is one of many in Brown’s oeuvre based on the 1984-85 painting Head of J.Y.M II by German-British figurative painter Frank Auerbach (b.1931). Spanning a variety of colors, tones and compositional modifications, Brown employs the visage of Julia Yardley Mills much like Auerbach did through the 80s as an enduring muse over a number of interrelated works. In his series, however, Brown conspicuously smoothes out the signature impasto of his predecessor – turning what was originally thick, scabrous oil paint into a smooth, luminous sheen. The palette is meant to evoke Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period (1901-1904), when personal and political strife became manifest in monochroma-tic and melancholic canvases. As such, this work aptly draws its title from a barbed comment by American poet, writer and satirist Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) about a death which registers meekly as tepid and unremarkable. In the context of this painting Brown elevates the ecstasy of his anonymous, androgynous subject to ostensibly avoid such a quiet passing – surrounding the figure in a tempestuous blue and crowning his/her head with a pristine halo reminiscent of Christian iconography.

– Steven Matijcio, Curator, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, USA