In 13, after an intense period of painting, artist Nicole Eisenman Wanting to change, wanting to change a practice that has almost become a reality is all too familiar. She packed the paint into a case, washed the walls of her studio with a fresh white, and embarked on a daunting task of starting from scratch—this time as a printmaker. Two decades into a fruitful artistic career, she’s yet another beginner. “It felt really liberating: suddenly there was a whole new set of questions and puzzles to play with,” Eisenman said. For months, she dedicated herself to learning the craft. She hasn’t painted for a year.
The fruits of that explosion of printmaking—and her work in the medium since then—are now on view at the Print Center in New York. “Nicole Eisenman: Prince” runs through May , including more than 40 Lithographs, etchings, monotypes, woodcuts and other prints, some of which rarely (if ever) appeared.
Eisenman’s work has established her as one of the most important artists of our day and won her a MacArthur Fellowship. For those familiar with Eisenman’s paintings and sculptures — which depict large-scale cartoon characters, often with queer and political themes in situations that range from playful to almost sinister — these prints are Like-minded people. Tonally, they’re all Nicole Eisenman. As in her other works, we see lots of people: alone, in groups, kissing, drinking, hanging out. But these prints are a little different. They feel deprived, stripped and intimate.
Her oil paintings are bold and pronounced, with vibrant colors and detailed narratives, and many of her prints are subdued without much background detail. Still, it’s astounding that New York-based Eisenman 57 is able to communicate with the scrape of a blade. In Untitled (Girl With a Tear), from 2012 woodcut, a sparsely engraved Picasso The face uses only pink lines and negative space to convey pain that almost anyone can recognize. That lazy tear contains the feeling of the whole ocean.