Nicole Eisenman’s ‘Untitled (Show)’ celebrates the interplay between painting and sculpture in their restless, expansive practice. It is their first major solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth New York, spanning two floors of the gallery’s building on West 22nd.
If ‘Untitled’ is a show about what Eisenman has been doing for two or three years, it is also a show – the clearest demonstration yet – of what they have been doing for three decades: building a world where life and form can finally have it out.
Edie, who is Eisenman’s two-year-old cat, appears severally throughout the show, getting beastlier with each incarnation: first as a kitten whose curiosity causes a hero to collide with his Destiny; later as a symbol – who knows? – of figuration’s ninth life. In her final form (‘Crazy Cat’, (2022)), Edie is all head and no body, molded out of clay and cast in bronze, weighing nearly 400 pounds: a wrecking ball lying in wait.
‘The Abolitionists in the Park’ (2020-21) [pictured far left] limns a bigger world than the known one, with more figures engendering more, not less, space for each other; the painting seems to warp and exceed its frame.
A lone figure – perhaps no figure in Eisenman’s oeuvre has been as lone – in ‘The Ledge’ (2022) looks less like a body than like a walking (not talking) stick. The black box that makes up the whole of the foreground in ‘Reality Show’ (2022) is what some people call a television; it is also what B.F. Skinner called the human mind. Synecdoche serves this artist well: ‘When you can’t think of what to draw,’ they’ve said, ‘draw a head.’ Meaning: the head stands in for the thought. Or vice versa? Eisenman’s heads are getting bigger.
Eisenman’s most noted collaboration is the one they have with the viewer, who is tasked with finishing their stories in her head.
Nicole Eisenman lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2018. Her work was included in the 2019 Venice Biennale, 2019 Whitney Biennial, and 2017 Skulptur Projekte Münster in Münster, Germany. Having established herself as a painter, Nicole Eisenman has expanded her practice into the third dimension.