Cecily Brown (b. 1969)
The Pyjama Game
signed twice, titled and dated twice 'Cecily Brown 97-98 the Pyjama Game' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
76 x 98 in. (183 x 249 cm.)
Painted in 1997-1998.
Deitch Projects, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
E. Heartney, "Cecily Brown at Deitch Projects, New York," Art in America, October 1998.
New York, Deitch Projects, Cecily Brown, High Society, April-May 1998, p. 131.
London, Saatchi Gallery, The Triumph of Painting, January 2005-2006, p. 134 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Named after the famous Doris Day musical comedy, The Pyjama Game is part of a series of paintings executed in the 1990's in which Brown re-used the names of saccharine, Technicolor films such as Hello Dolly, High Society, and Father of the Bride. Appropriating the titles of classic, squeaky-clean Hollywood movies, Brown highlights the artificially staged innocence of such films and subverts it with her unapologetically promiscuous paintings.

In the present work, Brown translates the movie into a pulsating, physical experience and projects it onto a sprawling, gritty canvas. Indeed, Cecily Brown's titillating landscapes of flesh literally ooze sex. An unabashedly erotic take on the Abstract Expressionist exploration of abstraction and figuration, Brown devours the sexual power and energy typically associated with the male-dominated movement and exaggerates it in a distinctively female painterly arena. Instead of the phallocentric compositions favored by some of her male heroes (most notably de Kooning's), Brown's canvases vibrate, swell and glisten with a distinctively female brand of sexuality. In The Pyjama Game, fragmented and contorted bodily forms, voluptuous applications of paint, and an indulgent, delectable color palette function to describe the primary subject matter of the painting: the raw physical, emotional, and intellectual experiences involved with the act of sex.

Glimpses of clenched fists, gaping mouths, arched backs, and pronounced bottoms make subtle, naughty appearances in The Pyjama Game. Creamy layers of seductive paint both hide and reveal the sinful activities taking place in this virtual peepshow. Unable to decipher figure from ground, or for that matter figure from figure, the orgiastic scene is not immediately perceptible. Bodies tumble, undulate and morph into one another in a superbly executed composition, swimming in a whirling pool of blood-red paint and lustful kisses of fleshy pinks, punctuated with flirty flashes of white, blue and green.

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