From the DS Archives: Lisa Yuskavage

Each Sunday we reach deep into the DailyServing Archives to unearth an old feature that we think needs to see the light of day. This week we found a review of Lisa Yuskavage’s 2009 exhibition with David Zwiner. If you have a favorite feature that you think should be published again, simply email us at info@dailyserving.com and include DS Archive in the subject line.

Originally Published: March 16, 2009

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Travelers, 2008, oil on linen, 77 x 62 x 1 1/4 inches

David Zwirner in Chelsea is currently presenting several recent large scale oil paintings by contemporary American figurative painter Lisa Yuskavage in her second solo show at the gallery. Since receiving her M.F.A. at Yale in 1986, Yuskavage has shown her work across the world and is included in several major museum collections. Works included in this gallery exhibition are PieFace (2008), Travellers (2008), Figure in Interior (2008), Snowman (2008), Reclining Nude (2009), The Smoker (2008), Pond (2007), among others, in addition to small oil paintings, including Figure in Landscape (2008) and Chrissy (2009).

Yuskavage began her career as a key part of a new figuration movement taking place in the 1990s (the “Bad Painting” movement), which occurred when the glitz of the previous decade faded and painting became more personal and traditional. Other artists grouped in this movement include John Currin, Elizabeth Peyton, and Luc Tuymans. Yuskavage’s now iconic sexualized young females are painted in a refined style that recalls the technique and skill of the great masters. These female characters are given anatomical irregularities, such as bloated bellies and exaggerated breasts, but sustain some mesmerizing sexual appeal. They are placed into erotically charged settings and positions, forcing the viewer into a sometimes uncomfortable voyeuristic situation. Yuskavage’s suggestive subject matter and her employment of a kitschy soft core aesthetic highlight the artist’s impeccable technical ability.

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Figure in Interior, 2008, oil on linen, 72 x 52 x 1 1/2 inches

In several works on display in the show, Yuskavage places her signature voluptuous beauties in mystical mountainous landscapes, sometimes accompanied by less prominent figures, as seen in Travelers, 2008. The vaporous lighting of the composition and the incomplete narrative suggested by the title trigger a slight feeling of unease, not unlike her earlier works. The artist has cleverly been able to maintain the critical balance between psychological and erotic content, but works such as Figure In Interior, 2008, call this balance into question with its salacious sensationalism.

The compositions representing interactions between two female figures are more psychologically compelling than the singular portraits, such as Teresa and Lauren, 2008, which depicts an impending encounter between two women in a warmly lit private chamber. The alluring glance of the woman looking back at us serves as both an easy entry to the rendezvous and a startling reminder of our fictional intrusion. The rousing exchange between these sapphic sirens is indicative of the artist’s continued ability to provide an undeniably stimulating experience.

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Teresa and Lauren, 2008, oil on linen, 25 1/2 x 24 x 1 1/4 inches

Yuskavage was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and currently lives and works in New York where she is represented by David Zwirner. Over the past year, she has participated in group exhibitions at The FLAG Art Foundation and Thrust Projects in New York and the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien in Vienna.

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