Cecily Brown Can Can at Cummer Museum, the sexiest painting I’ve ever seen

Cecily Brown Can Can (1998) at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is the sexiest painting I’ve ever seen. Not romantic. Not amorous. Not lovely. Sexy.

Not safe for work, tear each other’s clothes off, what was your name again sexy.

The enormous canvas measures roughly six feet tall and seven feet wide and writhes with fleshy, tangled body parts in the act.

Brilliant, lemon yellow pierced by seafoam green.

A wriggling orgy of a picture.

Breasts, erect penises, legs and buttocks. Dangerous curves. Faces in ecstasy.

Erotic. Dirty. Rough.

Swishing, swirling paint laid on thick representing swishing, swirling bodies, the medium reinforcing the subject matter. It’s a physical painting of a physical subject. Brushy. The hand of the artist everywhere. It’s fast, messy. Just like actions is portrays.

Brown (b. London, 1969) has always been known for her unique fusion of figurative and abstract painting which lands just this side of figuration and that characteristic style is put on full display here. Identifiable body parts emerge from an abstracted background, but they’re disconnected from complete figures. The composition features disjointed couples and individuals not acting in the same scene. Hands not connected to arms are seen grabbing, holding, squeezing. We see parts of a couple here, a penis there, a portion of an image next to it. Fetishes. Flashes of memory?

The painting is a turn on.

I love the color. The energy. Portions of this painting look like it could have been painted while having sex. Wild, uninhibited.

Cecily Brown Can Can, (detail) 1988. Oil on canvas. On loan to Cummer Museum from a private collection
Cecily Brown Can Can, (detail) 1988. Oil on canvas. On loan to Cummer Museum from a private collection

Cecily Brown Can Can depicts sexual gratification from a woman’s perspective – rare in popular culture. The male sex organ has been candidly represented and objectified. Not in the coy, ‘wink, wink,’ manner of the uncountable thousands of male artists who’ve objectified female sex through art history while obscuring their true intentions and perversions behind the label of “fine art;” this is blatant. Brown isn’t trying to be subtle.

Painted before Brown turned 30, the artwork demonstrates her prodigious talent. I’ve been fortunate to see other Cecily Brown artworks in person, most prominently at the Rubell Museum in Miami, I’ve liked them all, but none are better than this.

RELATED: More of my favorite paintings from the Cummer Museum.

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