Will “Girls” Star Jemima Kirke Be the Next Alice Neel?
Jemima Kirke is constantly having to prove herself as an artist. Not because there is any doubt as to her incredible skill as a portrait painter, quite the contrary. But because she is one of the stars of Lena Dunham’s hit HBO series “Girls,” and her television work has a way of overshadowing her studio work. However, the latter is currently the subject of a solo show at San Francisco’s Fouladi Projects, where a selection of her recent portraits of women is on view. They range from the Manet-like reclining nude in Cadence to the energetic child posed momentarily for Rafa (both 2014).
In all her paintings, Kirke arrests viewers’ attention with her figures’ wide and intense eyes, one of several formal similarities her work shares with that of Alice Neel. In an essay accompanying the Fouladi Projects show, art historian Paul J. Karlstrom cites Neel among a long list of influences on the young artist that stretches back to Egon Schiele, John Singer Sargent, and Thomas Eakins.
“Her expression is neither Whistlerian Art for Art’s Sake nor the Greenbergian ideal of the integrity of the picture plane,” Karlstrom writes. “Instead, she intuitively and determinedly seeks as her subject the human presence. And she accomplishes that goal while honoring the individuality of her female subjects.”
Jemima Kirke’s exhibition, “Platforms,” continues at Fouladi Projects through May 10.
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