Glenn Brown etchings at Gagosian (Geneva)
GLENN BROWN, Layered Portrait (after Rembrandt) 7, (2008), Etching on paper, Velin Arches 300gsm, 14 x 11 3/8″
If you’re in Switzerland any time soon (and, really, why aren’t you?), I bet it’s worth a mosey to Gagosian to see the current Glenn Brown: Etchings and Sculpture show. The etchings are a few years old, from 2008, but regardless, still fascinating in the way Brown uses appropriation and overprinting. Starting with scanned reproductions of portraits by Urs Graf (1485-1529), Lucian Freud (b. 1922), and Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Brown digitally layers the images into strange and shrouded forms. The resulting etchings reveal figures much more restrained than those in his paintings, yet just as surreal.
GLENN BROWN, Layered Portrait (After Lucian Freud) 3 (2008), etching on paper
I am drawn to these images, yet distanced by the fact that Brown is at heart a painter, not a printmaker. He has a strange attitude towards printmaking, as evidenced below:
“I’ve tried using photography, and I do use computers and forms of image-making other than painting. The computer is probably the best example of something that is there to challenge painting. But the whole process of printing is so bad, so lumbering and awful, that it can’t compare to the precise technology of painting, where what you put on the surface is what you actually see. You can get gradations of color that are far more complex than anything printing can achieve. So the immediacy and impact that painting can have compared with other forms of technology just blows them away, I think.” – Glenn Brown, in an interview, Art in America (April 3, 2009)
I believe here he’s referring primarily to reproductive printing (e.g. photographs of paintings printed in catalogs), but there is still an undercurrent of disdain, a refusal to acknowledge the utility and unique beauty capable with printmaking. Brown is himself in contradiction, for in his paintings he is very much concerned with concepts integral to the modern printmaker: appropriation, recording, layering, manipulation, duplication, etc. The 2009 catalog Glenn Brown: Portraits (Etchings), with an essay by John-Paul Stonard, might provide more insight into his relationship with these prints. Or, it might just reveal another transient painter at the plate.Bookmark / Share / Print