Nicole Eisenman’s first major retrospective in the U.K., at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, contains over 100 works spanning some 30 years, although its impressive scope feels even wider, stretching across the history of art. Take a painting like Coping (2008), which is filled with individual vignettes in a manner reminiscent of Breughel, or Fishing (2000), where the symmetrical composition and arrangement of figures calls to mind a High Renaissance altarpiece. Elsewhere, Sloppy Bar Room Kiss (2011) has the same painterly, expressionistic approach to everyday modern life that was popularized by artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Brooklyn-based French-American painter and sculptor is adverse to giving interviews or offering any kind of oversimplifying explanations for these scenes, which can often be monumental in size and littered with references. What comes through clearly enough in the work, however, is her boldly biting yet always humorous critiques of contemporary socio-political issues including identity, war, economic downturn, and technology.
Featured image: Nicole Eisenman, Econ Prof (2019). Photo courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
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