by Rachel Heidenry
Nicole Eisenman is an artist without filter. Her paintings feel as if an idea popped into her head and she immediately went to work capturing it – no matter how absurd. They feel quick, purposeful, lighthearted. The artist’s dutiful spontaneity, however, should not belittle the thought embedded within each canvas. While they may be whimsical, they are also deeply intentional.
Combining influences from German Expressionism and Social Realism, Eisenman’s canvases can usually be pointed back to art historical references – that one Matisse, that particular Ben Shahn, that popular Manet. Her influences balance a line between mockery and reverence, borrowing styles and shapes, while injecting a necessary dose of feminism and humor.
In this way, Eisenman directly explores the human condition. Her works project discomfort and absurdity while seeking reason and meaning. Contemporary loneliness, self-appreciation and search for community are major themes acting out in the faces she paints – the longer one looks the more telling they become.
With a major show of her work currently on view at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, make sure to take the time to really look.