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Cecily Brown, Madrepora (Shipwreck), 2016, oil on linen, 8' 1“ x 12' 7 1/8”.

Cecily Brown

Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

Cecily Brown, Madrepora (Shipwreck), 2016, oil on linen, 8' 1“ x 12' 7 1/8”.

In her marvelous writing on the art of Joan Mitchell in Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (2007), Maggie Nelson wrestles with several of the reasons why Mitchell’s paintings have proven so difficult to place in the established art-historical accounts of postwar American painting. Mitchell pushed her work too far into the wild realms of nature and human consciousness to fit the rigid formalist theories of Clement Greenberg. She labored too long on every canvas to count as the kind of action painter held up by Harold Rosenberg. She was unapologetically committed to the depths and ranges of her colors without being a dainty or diminutive colorist. Her paintings carried a “furious insistence on over-the-top visual pleasure,” writes Nelson. That effect was difficult to write about and almost impossible to contain in the typical critical appraisals of her day.

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