Nicole Eisenman

The Kiss

September 8 – October 31, 2015

Nicole Eisenman: The Kiss. September 8 – October 31, 2015
Nicole Eisenman: The Kiss. September 8 – October 31, 2015
Nicole Eisenman: The Kiss. September 8 – October 31, 2015
Nicole Eisenman: The Kiss. September 8 – October 31, 2015
Nicole Eisenman: The Kiss. September 8 – October 31, 2015
Nicole Eisenman: The Kiss. September 8 – October 31, 2015

The work of New York–based artist Nicole Eisenman (born 1965 in Verdun, France) raises questions regarding existing conventions in art and society. It does so via a freeing and often dark humor that makes no exception for Eisenman, herself. In her historically informed art, she fuses the visual vocabularies of caricature, painting, and recent subcultures into a highly individual formal language, which returns time and again to a focus on human individuality.

On display in her third solo exhibition at the gallery are recently completed paintings on paper, most of them large format, that offer up intimate views held and observations made by the artist. At times, the works slip into dreamy scenes whose meanings and painterly opulence only unfold gradually. In Untitled (for now) (2015), a naked woman sits gazing up at the firmament and the hardly visible constellation WUT (What?), while in Three Women (2015) a bear––depressed, bowing its head––is integrated into a melancholic idyll.
Contemplative (self-)reflections such as Self Portrait at Night (2015) depict the artist reading psychoanalytic theory or, as in Day's End (2015), at night in a room whose window opens onto a skyline with a beaming One World Trade Center. A central motif in the exhibition is “the kiss”, which appears in two variations. An ethereal and quite gentle pencil drawing that plays with surrealist iconography, Le Kiss (2015) is contrasted by Le Kiss Deux (2015), whose highly physical portrayal renders palpable the transgressive aspect of intimacy. The private realm is left behind in Tea Party (2015); that neo-conservative U.S. political movement serves as a metaphor for a corrupted American Dream. The work contains a flagpole, onto which cling not only a chubby businessman and a one-legged pirate, but also the Grim Reaper––tightly, by his bony hand.

Eisenman has paired these works with two important ink drawings, which possess the explicitly political force of Tea Party and also highlight another of the exhibition's undercurrents: Study for the U.S.S. Williamsburg Crashing Off The Shores of Fame (2002) shows the presidential yacht of Harry S. Truman tilting precariously but is aimed more at the eponymously named part of New York and the ambitions of its inhabitants, while Nachbarschaft Polizeistaat (Neighborhood Police State, 1992) appears to depict a civil war.

New York–based author Ariana Reines has written a text, entitled The Kiss, to accompany the exhibition.


Dear Nicole

For so,e reqson this ,orning


For some reason this morning

(When I started typing I don’t know why but the keyboard was on “French”)

For some reason this morning I woke up singing

Five Hundred Miles

This old Peter Paul and Mary song I haven’t heard since I was oh

Twelve. I used to sing all the time but music has largely

Departed from me. From Five

Hundred Miles I slid to listening: Schlomo

Carlebach, “Lord Get Me High”

At which point I started weeping

“Like a sentimental concentration camp guard”

As I sometimes say to myself

When in one of my unkinder moods

Weeping and bleeding, not a good look

Drawing and Sweating, I know the feeling

To be frank I’ve been weeping all morning

The somewhat satisfied tears of a person imagining

Herself as one not alone with her culture for once

Not alone with her ancestors stacked

On top of her like the raccoon and the eagle

And the big black bug that they are and then some

Like the invisible totem pole that they are

But instead for once this morning I cried the sentimental tears of one

Whose story (I allowed myself to imagine, as I rarely

Do) was part of one larger than me and my invisible

Totem pole & which, (& now I’m getting closer)

Includes you, who are So Alive, Baruch Hashem,

Which is a thing for the record I DO NOT SAY.

Baruch Hashem. Ya Ali as Tiffany’s

Mom says. This was the morning,

Insha’Allah, I was going to devote to your art

It turned out to be a somewhat Judaic

Or rather a maternal

Morning as anyone could tell

By its music alone and I wanted to say

The Cracked Afikomen.

And I wanted to say

The Kiss.

And I wanted to say The Cracked Afikomen / The Kiss.

The Delivery From Bondage

What Carlebach called in a rather maudlin song

Which nevertheless made me sob a little, “The Great Shabbos”

Um, pause. Please accept this letter

As placeholder

For the better thing

That I shall write one

Day after today.

Take it from me, Alice

To Alice in Wonderland

Jew to Jew, take it from me

With a little nectar of secrecy

I am making this humble

Request, parrot to parrot, mirror

To mirror, Thomas

To Thomas, Alice to Alice

In Wonderland. Uhhhhh

This is one of the most sentimental

Things I’ve ever written. Which is teaching

Me that sentimentality has to do

With the emotion you express when you know

Or assume or presume you will

Be understood, and it also has something

To do with predigested emotion, mass

Emotion, but also with even the thought

Of shared experience and a certain tiny

Amount of trust. Of simplicity.

The fact is I miss my dead

Grandmother this morning. I miss

Her livid, mismatched eyes. I miss

Her voice. Sometimes

She gazes at me out from the eyes of my cat

I admit that too. And weirdly when I’m being

Made love to by a woman at times I feel far far

Above me in a strange change of air

Her pleasure.

I miss my mom too. I mean the person

She might have been and the thought

Of getting to know her, the knowledge

That I will never know my parents as adult

People with souls and minds, as people

I could look at not as a diagnostician

Or with the eyes of a graduate

Of the very severe private

Yeshiva called, and here I must apologize

To everyone again, Poetry, which I sent myself to

On a really shitty work-study scholarship

But instead look at her woman to woman or

At my father, woman to man, experience them

As persons and not as stinging

Facts. I mean,

I can’t look at them without my poetry helmet on.

I can’t look at them with feeling.

I can look at them with feeling but only

With feeling beside me, like a little dog,

Looking at your paintings

I am plunged into feeling. To be honest

The sound of your voice did something

To my veins when we were talking

About your new show and Elvis and Trinidad

And the parrot that says Holocaust.

There is something extremely strong and clear

In the sound of your voice, which my blood hears.

I didn’t grow up with much visual

Culture. “As a Jew,” I was going to write, “I didin’t

Grow up with visual culture.” I grew

Up with music. I grew

Up in it. I wore an eyepatch as a little girl

And not, since you asked, but you didn’t,

By choice. This letter is going on

Too long but I have this weird feeling

I won’t be able to write anything better unless

I get to the other side of this letter.

Point being, as my friend Erika would say,

I have this attraction to the crack

In the Afikomen which like the crack

In quote unquote Everything

Is the slit in ourselves

Is The Kiss. Among the Neoplatonists

There was one, I forget who it was right now, Pico

Della Mirandola? Who wrote a rather lovely

Treatise on what it was The Kiss was.

It wasn’t Pico it was Castiglione.

I haven’t read it in years but I agree

With everything he says. I think your paintings

Do too. I love how you tend to swell noses

Into sore, socially realist (though they are also surrealist)

Knobs. Even pleasure knobs. Tender & overused

Knobs of sense, of sorrow & joy. Turning up

The radio, turning up the volume with the knobs

On my five

Senses I’m feeling now my appetite

To touch what is behind things, behind

As they say, The Veil. What the Word

Looked like when you lifted her tasseled

Dress. Poesy falls from me as honey

Falls from the honeycomb that’s fallen

From the tree that just got kicked.

Thar she blows.

What is in the vivid feeling

That rings like a tuning fork when you are speaking?

Perhaps it was a little bit the song

Of your dead lovebird and World War

Three, my dead lovebird, or this vague

Sensation in me I sometimes name “Islands”

Or this sly feeling in me I sometimes call “Caribbean

Queen” which is a perfume only Diasporic people

Wear and which does not exist. I feel

That though one of the great virtues in your painting

Is that it is unbesmirched by nostalgia, that its presence

And aliveness are so rare and refreshing,

That you are of the Old World.

You come from the Old World, like me.

And that’s how come I can see you and you

Can see me. That's how come we can see

Each other somehow, I just know it.

I can feel it. And that is also how come

This letter is private, even if we share it.

Because, who needs to read this? Serious

Question. Possibly Everybody.

There are literally a million, six million lol

Other reasons (sorry that was completely inane)

Why you are the greatest painter alive and one

Of those is that to be around you it’s like you know

And it doesn’t even matter or rather you Will Not

Go There which is why I feel

It’s an insult to your greatness even to mention it

But I mean, your gallery is paying me to explain

To OTHER people why you are so great and not say

I love her because she’s from the Old World, like me

Anyway my tears are dry now and I’m a little embarrassed

But not that much.

Whatever, I’m gonna reread this once

Then hit send.

-Ariana Reines, 19-21 August 2015