Glenn Brown (survey): Des Moines Art Center, Iowa
The title of this work is drawn from a wistful sea shanty that tells the tragic tale of a wife who has lost her love at sea. As she sails to every corner of the ocean and stops to inquire with every ship she sees, the tortured widow is told, “"Oh no, fair maiden, he is not here; For he's been drownded we greatly fear; On yon green island as we passed it by, There we lost sight of your sailor boy." In this painting the direction of such lament is reversed as we strain to keep sight of Marguerite Gachet as she was originally depicted by Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) in the 1890 work Marguerite Gachet at the Piano. In this initial context she wears a long white dress, with a green stool peeking out from beneath its soft cascade as her fingers dance across a piano lit by candle. In Brown’s rendition Gachet is turned upside down and – much like Pope Innocent X in The Great Queen Spider – her head is cropped and the background removed as figurative contours begin to expand and contract. As Gachet subsequently slides into a sea of abstraction Brown adds an anomalous black dot which serves to flatten the canvas and disorient the viewer (akin to the green stripe in The Shallow End). In the ensuing fray, somewhere between a flower, clown and/or hooded apparition, Brown’s emancipated pianist floats hauntingly adrift.
– Steven Matijcio, Curator, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, USA