Art & Design » Nicole Eisenman: Brushes with Greatness
Eisenman with works in progress.

Nicole Eisenman: Brushes with Greatness

One of eight women artists who are storming the boys' club.

“I take downtime seriously,” Nicole Eisenman says over the phone from her summer house on New York’s Fire Island a week after the seasonal hordes have cleared out. “It’s lovely when no one’s here.” For the Brooklyn-based painter, the moments between exhibitions are often when her brain opens up to new strategies—like when, in 2009, she traded elaborate storytelling in the form of classically painted scenes of, say, a convivial beer garden for simpler, masklike works similar to those included in the MoMA show. “For me, it was really a different approach,” Eisenman, 49, says of the paintings, which hover somewhere between figuration and abstraction. “These portraits are about color, shape, balance, symmetry. It’s as close to pure formalism as I’m probably ever going to get.” Not that she’s entirely forsaken narrative: Recently, Eisenman moved out of the Williamsburg house she shared with her then-partner and their two children—whose bedroom there is covered with murals she did years ago—and into an apartment nearby. “The kids have a whole new mural now.”

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