Nicole Eisenman’s Costume Party

THE DAILY PIC: Her 'actor' paintings are more complex than her allegories.


THE DAILY PIC (#1570): Nicole Eisenman: Al-ugh-ories,” at the New Museum in New York, gets its title exactly right: “Ugh” is my immediate reaction to almost all allegories. (Which puts Eisenman in good company, of course, with such towering figures as Edmund Spencer and Ludovico Ariosto, whom I also find mostly dull.) Allegories, by definition, are all about message-sending, and that makes most of Eisenmann’s paintings too simpleminded for me.

That’s why I was so pleased to come across the two paintings I’m showing in today’s column, which have a lovely complexity.

I’m not sure why Buster Keaton has donned a deep-diving suit, or what I’m supposed to make of Eisenman’s Sarah Bernhardt-ish image of Hamlet. Clearly, playing roles and taking risks are in play, but in fact there’s nothing “clear” about any of this.

And Eisenman’s paint matches the density of her subjects. It’s like a costume her pictures wear to keep their options open. (Courtesy New Museum, New York; photo by Maris Hutchinson)

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