MATRIX 248 showcases the work of New York–based artist Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965), who became prominent in the 1990s and has been steadfastly expanding dialogues surrounding painting and drawing ever since. Having come of age in the East Village in the 1980s, Eisenman’s work reflects myriad sources both art historical and popular, culling from what writer and critic Lynne Tillman has referred to as a “vast image bank” that ranges from eighties punk ephemera to canonical works from the history of art. Parisian cafe settings found in late nineteenth-century paintings by Manet and Degas become open-air beer gardens one might find in present-day Berlin or Brooklyn, with the smartphones on the tables locating the scene in time. Intermixing styles associated with American Regionalism and the Italian Renaissance with German Expressionism, Eisenman brings history to bear in her canvases and drawings, yet twists the imagery to infuse these familiar forms with her own incisive social commentary and aesthetic voice.
Gender and suggestions of romantic liaisons remain open questions in most of Eisenman’s compositions. The articulated muscular (female) figure has predominated in her oeuvre. She filters the heroic style of Michelangelo through her feminist and lesbian subject matter, yet in recent years her work has become more abstract and less overtly narrative, encompassing psychological ambiguity and looser painterly forms. Decidedly contemporary, her dark, moody genre scenes remain moored in universal themes of everyday life: politics, romance, the economy, social gatherings, and isolation. This exhibition focuses on a selection of paintings and prints that the artist has made over the last several years that coalesce around the theme of economic and social hardship.
In conjunction with MATRIX 248, BAM/PFA presents Ballet of Heads, a thematic group exhibition drawn from the collection that explores the polymorphous nature of the figure in art history. The selection includes important Eisenman influences such as George Grosz and William Hogarth.