Nicole Eisenman
What Happened

★★★☆☆

On until 14 January 2024

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.


notes and notices are short and curt exhibition reviews. Read more:

Michael Simpson at Modern Art ★★★★☆

Michael Simpson

★★★★☆

In this meditation of surface disguised as a study of objects, neither is a truer likeness of the events.

Esteban Jefferson, May 25th, 2020 at Goldsmiths CCA ★★★☆☆

Esteban Jefferson

May 25th, 2020

★★★☆☆

This exhibition is a warning to would-be propagandists: trust art at your peril.

Josèfa Ntjam’s, swell of spæc(i)es, Venice ★★☆☆☆

Josèfa Ntjam

swell of spæc(i)es

★★☆☆☆

Ntjam’s Biennale presentation has all the hallmarks of world-building ambition. For one, it boasts two separate locations, one dedicated solely to the work’s public programme. The main feature is housed in a giant purpose-made structure which occupies a third of…

The Otolith Group, I See Infinite Distance Between Any Point and Another at greengrassi ★★☆☆☆

The Otolith Group

I See Infinite Distance Between Any Point and Another

★★☆☆☆

The exhibition is a private memorial for Etel Adnan accessible only to members of the art world’s inner circle. And that’s a pity.

Joshua Leon, The Missing O and E at Chisenhale Gallery ★☆☆☆☆

Joshua Leon

The Missing O and E

★☆☆☆☆

This embarrassing display indicts today’s second-fiddlers with narcissism and egomania.

Eva Kot’átková, The Czech pavilion in Venice ★★☆☆☆

Eva Kot’átková

The heart of a giraffe in captivity is twelve kilos lighter

★★☆☆☆

The giraffe’s taxidermied corpse is host to an ideological stunt.

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