Nicole Eisenman's paintings meld reality and fantasy in a manner that's both nonchalant and jarring.
Tue Dec 15 2009
Beer Garden Ulrike and Celeste; Photographs: Courtesy of Leo Koenig Gallery
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Nicole Eisenman’s new paintings are an amusing bunch—not because the figures depicted in these scenes of merriment are necessarily having a blast (though some of them seem to be enjoying the moment) but more because her scenes are such visually rich images that deciphering them is akin to playing a game. You have to work to spot the fantastical creatures amid the groups of regular folks, the wacky color used for skin tones, the myriad styles of painting in a single tableau and the unabashed art references (to Manet, Brueghel and Munch, among others) within each. Given the variety of approaches in these works, they could have easily slipped into incoherence. And yet, while they’re not entirely coherent, Eisenman’s canvases manage to create a highly emotive, mystical narrative.
Eisenman’s subjects take on bizarre, vulgar—even bestial—characteristics: A naked woman sits with her legs splayed at a family dinner; a man with his pants pulled down reveals his ass where his junk should be. The nonchalant melding of reality and fantasy is both jarring and intriguing. The black-comedy mood—and mishmash of paint application—continues in the back room, where a salonlike installation of small portraits displays figures with piggish or large, red noses, and eyes shedding red tears, sprouting real dried flowers or gouged by faux bullet holes.
Eisenman has said that she began working on this series while undergoing a midlife crisis, and it shows: The work suggests that we’re never so lonely as when we try to come together over a beer, a meal or a common state of dejection.—Nana Asfour
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