I caught the last days of some good painting exhibitions in Chelsea. Particularly interesting for me was to see three different generation women painters showing at the same time in Chelsea: Alice Neel, Nicole Eisenman & Dana Schutz. The focus of Eisenman’s show at Leo Koenig is her etchings, lithographs and woodcuts. The varied technics of printmaking and resulting varied surface created a nice counterbalance to her paintings. Schutz abandons some of the more gimmicky ideas (black holes on canvas) and focuses on the expressionism of the paint itself in her new show at Friedrich Petzel Gallery. At Zwirner, Neels shows portraits and still lifes made between 1964 and 1983, relatively late works.
I found some commonalities among these three painters: focus on figures, expressionistic painting styles and bright color palettes. Yet it was interesting to see the generational differences as well. Neel’s naturalistic and emphatic expressionism contrasts with self-conscious artificiality and irony of younger painters (particularly Schutz). It is, of course, not entirely possible to have such a forthright painting practice as Neel at this day and age. We cannot abandon all the understanding and critical view gained during last couple of decades about our art history, cultural subtexts and power structures. At the same time I couldn’t help myself to feel some wistful nostalgia for Neel’s directness.