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Nicole Eisenman / MATRIX 248 (May 3—July 14, 2013)
SOLO EXHIBITION SHOWCASES RECENT WORKS BY THE ARTIST THAT ARE SET AGAINST A CLIMATE OF ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY AND SOCIAL CRISIS; A RELATED SHOW, INSPIRED BY EISENMAN, EXPLORES THE POLYMORPHOUS NATURE OF THE FIGURE IN SELECTED HISTORICAL WORKS FROM THE BAM/PFA COLLECTION
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Berkeley, CA, April 3, 2013—The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) proudly presents Nicole Eisenman / MATRIX 248, on view May 3 through July 14, 2013. The exhibition brings together approximately forty works by the New York–based artist, produced since 2009. Intermixing historical styles associated with American Regionalism and the Italian Renaissance with German Expressionism, Eisenman twists these themes, updating them with contemporary imagery and reimagining them with her own social commentary and aesthetic voice.
The first BAM/PFA exhibition organized by new Phyllis C. Wattis MATRIX Curator Apsara DiQuinzio, the exhibition focuses on a selection of paintings and works on paper that were motivated by the economic crisis and lingering political instability that continue to cloud post-Bush-era America. And though her works directly address the larger political sociological themes of our times, Eisenman goes beyond these concerns to explore a broader interest in the human condition, typified in the uneasy and disenchanted expressions that predominate the figures in her paintings and works.
Eisenman’s initial response to the prevailing social unease was to produce a series of colorful, shape-shifting, expressive monotypes of people weeping. She continued to channel this melancholia (for her inextricably linked to Bush’s terms in office) into psychologically charged works. Triumph of Poverty (2009), a contemporary reworking of Hans Holbein the Younger’s lost painting of the same title (c. 1533), is reinterpreted for today’s turbulent times. A dilapidated, made-in-the-U.S.A. sedan replaces Holbein’s mule-drawn cart, foregrounding the ruinous state of the American auto industry. Tea Party (2011), meanwhile, is fixated on the ever-growing political and social divides in the U.S. Learning about a notable New York art critic’s comment that there had been no good paintings of the Tea Party, Eisenman was inspired to accept the challenge. In her painting, a fractious foursome is holed up in a bunker, cut off from reality, preparing for their imminent apocalypse—perfectly articulating the absurdity of these times.
To alleviate some of the desperation she felt during that time, Eisenman began to paint beer gardens. In her hands, Parisian cafe settings found in late nineteenth-century paintings by Renoir and Degas become open-air beer gardens one might find in present-day Berlin or Brooklyn, with the smartphones on the tables locating the scene in time.
In conjunction with the Eisenman presentation, BAM/PFA also presents the thematic group exhibition Ballet of Heads: The Figure in the Collection, on view May 17 through August 25, 2013. Taking off from the Eisenman works, this complementary exhibition explores the polymorphous nature of the figure in art history drawing from paintings sculptures, and works on paper from the BAM/PFA Collection. The exhibition teases out many of the threads found in Eisenman’s paintings and works on paper—a blending of seemingly oppositional categories such as social realism, abstraction, folk art, and popular comics—and contextualizes those in the process. Eisenman cites many of the artists included in Ballet of Heads as important influences, such as William Blake, George Grosz, William Hogarth, and Pablo Picasso. While the work of more recent artists, including as Joan Brown, Nancy Grossman, and Sue Coe, bears striking affinities to Eisenman’s own.
MATRIX 248 is organized by Apsara DiQuinzio, curator of modern and contemporary art and Phyllis C. Wattis MATRIX Curator. The MATRIX Program is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.
About the Artist
Nicole Eisenman was born in 1965 in Verdun, France; she lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She has had solo exhibitions at Studio Voltaire, London; Leo Koenig Inc., New York; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Clver City; Le Plateau, Paris; Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin; the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York; Kunsthalle Zürich, Zürich; the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; and the Centraal Museum Utrecht, Utrecht, among others. She has participated in many group exhibitions at institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Jewish Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Reina Sofia, Madrid; and Ludwig Museum, Cologne.
The MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art introduces the Bay Area community to exceptional work being made internationally, nationally, and locally, creating a rich connection to the current dialogues on contemporary art and demonstrating that the art of this moment is vital, dynamic, and often challenging. Confronting traditional practices of display and encouraging new, open modes of analysis, MATRIX provides an experimental framework for an active interchange between the artist, the museum, and the viewer. There have been almost 250 shows at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive since the program's inception in 1978. Over more than thirty years MATRIX has featured artists such as John Baldessari, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, Nan Goldin, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Shirin Neshat, Nancy Spero, and Andy Warhol. In recent years the selection of MATRIX artists has become more international in scope, with the roster including Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Peter Doig, Omer Fast, Tobias Rehberger, Ernesto Neto, Rosalind Nashashibi, Tomás Saraceno, Mario Garcia Torres, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, representing countries as diverse as Finland, Germany, Iran, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, and many others. For an alphabetical listing of artists who have shown in the MATRIX program visit: http://bampfa.berkeley.edu/exhibition/alphamatrix.php
Founded in 1963, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is UC Berkeley’s primary visual arts venue and among the largest university art museums in terms of size and audience in the United States. Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, BAM/PFA is a platform for cultural experiences that transform individuals, engage communities, and advance the local, national and global discourse on art and ideas. BAM/PFA’s mission is “to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film.”
BAM/PFA presents approximately fifteen art exhibitions and 380 film programs each year. The museum’s collection of over 16,000 works of art includes important holdings of Neolithic Chinese ceramics, Ming and Qing Dynasty Chinese painting, Old Master works on paper, Italian Baroque painting, early American painting, Abstract Expressionist painting, contemporary photography, and video art. Its film archive of over 14,000 films and videos includes the largest collection of Japanese cinema outside of Japan, Hollywood classics, and silent film, as well hundreds of thousands of articles, reviews, posters, and other ephemera related to the history of film, many of which are digitally scanned and accessible online.
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