Glenn Brown (survey): Des Moines Art Center, Iowa
This series of etchings congregate a much larger number of portrait and figure study etchings by pre-eminent British artist Lucien Freud (1922-2011). Brown admits he has a conflicted relationship to Freud’s work, some of which he finds stellar, others of which he finds distasteful. His ambivalence becomes present in this series of Layered Portraits where Brown sequences up to 10 of Freud’s works on a single sheet of textured paper, one upon the other. The ensuing aggregates grow heavy with layers of ink, obscuring almost every detail of the individual images in shadowy masses of suggestion. In the process, Brown implicitly references the cult 1963 sci-fi/horror film X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes directed by Roger Corman and starring Ray Milland as Dr. James Xavier. In this cautionary tale Dr. Xavier invents eye drops that bestow him with x-ray powers which soon accelerate beyond his intended objectives. As his eyes grow dark and he can no longer see anything but abstracted patches of light and shadow, Xavier becomes so tortured that he carves out his eyes as a remedy. The paradox of seeing so much that it obscures one’s vision echoes through Brown’s Layered Portraits, where an excess of visual information produces contradictory results. Indulging in imagery resonates as both a seductive invitation and a damning contract, particularly when directed to/by an artist whose practice hinges upon an ongoing excavation of the image world.
– Steven Matijcio, Curator, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, USA