Eisenman’s oeuvre, presented here chronologically, invites sympathy to begin with. The painter was a war artist to the subcultural and sexual shenanigans of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1990s. Imagine a wall’s worth of orgiastic sketches (Viz magazine but in oil paint) and you’ll wish you’d dropped out of the same art school. A decade later, when Eisenman’s midlife crisis coincided with America’s brutal political reawakening, her interest turned to the lone figure. As she mourned the loss of youth and relationships, her cartoonish affectations gave way to Holbein, Breughel, and Bacon.
But come Tea Party time, the tables turned and Eisenman has since used her canvases to warn, not plead. There’s a Bosch hellscape dedicated to Trump, a scene with a red-hatted MAGA chud, and a whole “basket of deplorables” polishing their guns in a prepper cell. The exhibition’s finale is a reproduction (!) of a group portrait of Eisenman’s art world friends lounging in a park to protest police violence that would fascinate an anthropologist.
These works lack the universalism of Eisenman’s earlier practice. Instead of confidence, they breed paranoia. And it, in turn, casts doubt on the earlier work’s daring.