Glenn Brown's paintings derive from existing images, often of art historical significance, or sometimes appropriated from popular culture: the primary source of his art is artistic reproduction. He employs images taken from albums or from the internet, adopting imagery from the masters canonised in art history as well as from lesser-known 19th century painters, or even from illustrators of sci-fi books.
Curated by: Laurence Sillars, Francesco Bonami
Coordinated by: Katalin Székely
In cooperation with Tate Liverpool and Fondazione Sandretto re Rebaudengo, Turin
Glenn Brown's (Hexam, 1966) paintings derive from existing images, often of art historical significance, or sometimes appropriated from popular culture: the primary source of his art is artistic reproduction. He employs images taken from albums or from the internet, adopting imagery from the masters canonised in art history (Rembrandt, Fragonard, Dalí) as well as from lesser-known 19th century painters (John Martin or Bertalan Székely), or even from illustrators of sci-fi books (Chris Foss, Adolf Schaller or Tony Roberts).
He imitates Expressionist brushstrokes: the paintings of Willem de Kooning, Karel Appel or Frank Auerbach, but the final result is not a copy of the original picture, but rather a hyper-realistic copy of its reproduction. His paintings with a mirror-smooth surface recall the illusion of the trompe l'oeil technique, delusive tricks used by the old masters. His meticulously painted canvases may appear to be reproductions enlarged to enormity, while the effects of computer image-processing programs can also be observed in his more recent paintings.
The exhibition at the Ludwig Museum Budapest is the first comprehensive presentation of Glenn Brown's work: realised as a result of cooperation with Tate Liverpool and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin. With a few exceptions, the material of the exhibition in Budapest is the same as that of the exhibitions held earlier in Liverpool and Turin, but in this case, it is the first time that Glenn Brown's so-called "layered" drawings and etchings have been included in the selection, which he creates starting from portraits by Lucian Freud, Rembrandt and Urs Graf.
The unique nature of Brown's works lies in selecting and mixing the "original" works. It is a genuine post-structuralist consideration, and as such, it also ironically questions the role of the author. Glenn Brown's choices are never for their own sake (he often chooses archetypes who exercised artistic appropriation themselves, such as Salvador Dalí, Francis Bacon or Willem de Kooning), and at the same time, he does not make a distinction between high and popular art, or kitsch and canonised art. His pop quotations (from the songs of Joy Division, The Smiths, Ralph McTell or Lisa Stansfield, or parts of musicals) as titles are just as inseparable parts of his works as the brushstrokes combining paintings by Rembrandt and Vélazquez. In each case, the final result is an autonomous artwork, which rebuffs both Benjamin's criticism and the theoreticians of the avant-garde, first of all Clement Greenberg's cult of originality. With his quotations, Brown finds a possible language of today's painting, which consists of nothing but an infinite pile of pre-existing pictures. In the formation and elaboration of this visual language, however painting skills and knowledge, as well as the viewer who admires or feels disgusted by the pictures, play an outstanding role.
Image: The Great Masturbator, 2006.
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Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art
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