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Cecily Brown’s Paintings Are at the (Other) Met

When the Metropolitan Opera opens its season on Monday evening, well-heeled patrons ascending the building’s sweeping dual staircase may recognize bits of themselves and their dramatic surroundings in Cecily Brown’s two huge paintings, stretching more than 9 by 25 feet, at the top of each landing.

Though the loose, gestural brushwork seems abstract, on closer inspection it coalesces into jostling figures, only to break apart again into fragments. Black bow ties pop out from the crowd, and then faces and dinner jackets start to come into focus. “There’s an awful lot of groping going on,” said Ms. Brown, the acclaimed British-born artist, lithe and animated in her New York studio. “As you come up, it’s almost that you enter into the painting, and the crowd will be mirrored. People think my work is abstract, but I always see it as teeming with figures — here more than usual.”...

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