Nicole Eisenman rose to renown in the New York art world in the 1990s as a creator of epic visual universes and inventor of bold, unvarnished, and occasionally shocking tableaus. She surveys the history of modern-era painting with instinctive assurance, rendering fantastic scenes as well as astute observations from everyday life in compelling form. Despite her stylistic versatility—she deliberately thwarts attempts to pigeonhole and fence her in—Eisenman has developed a unique signature style blending classical techniques and compositional forms with influences from underground and popular culture. The private clashes with the political in works that sometimes feature her own friends and acquaintances, a forthrightness that has made her a leading protagonist in contemporary art and the queer art scene.
Most recently, Eisenman caused a stir with her reinterpretation of a baroque fountain for Skulptur Projekte Münster. At the Secession, she presents paintings and drawings from the past year that respond directly to last fall’s U. S. presidential elections. Recalling earlier works in which apocalyptic scenes reflected relations of power and the individual’s impuissance, the new cycle paints a gloomy panorama of America under Donald Trump and a society that, apathetic and absent-minded, is edging ever closer to the abyss.
The centerpieces of the exhibition, the titular Dark Light and Going Down River on the USS J-Bone of an Ass, are two monumental and highly elaborate compositions that could hardly be more different.