Nicole Eisenman: What Happened at the Whitechapel Gallery

01.10.2023
Catherine Alfillé

Nicole Eisenman: What Happened at the Whitechapel Gallery

01.10.2023
Catherine Alfillé

Whilst the rain poured down over London last weekend, I spent my Saturday afternoon indoors at the Whitechapel Gallery admiring 100 pieces of work from the award-winning French-born American artist Nicole Eisenman. Nicole Eisenman: What Happened is the first major UK retrospective from the artist, featuring paintings, drawings, animations, sculptures and monoprints, many of which have never been seen in the UK. Arranged in chronological order across her three-decade career, the exhibition takes visitors from Eisenman’s earliest drawings, which often used humour to attack conventional ideas about gender and sexuality, to her immense paintings and most recent sculptural pieces.

Eisenman’s take on the world is both joyous and dystopian. Through her satirical works of art, particularly her early Renaissance-like paintings that merge with comic book references, Eisenman invites visitors to reflect on the world through her eyes, which heavily features cultural critiques of the artist’s place in society. As the exhibition progresses, Eisenman’s wild and wacky work continues to explore the personal and the socio-political, from highlighting urgent economic and environmental issues to offering bewildered but affectionate reflections on technology’s impact on human behaviour and relationships.

As the journey ends, visitors arrive at ‘Makers Muck’ (2022), Eisenman’s most ambitious sculptural indoor piece to date, which is perceived as a reflection of how it might feel to create art in a world of continuous production and consumption. Featuring endless different materials, the moving sculptural piece can also mirror Eisenman’s boundless dedication to exploring multiple disciplines to help her art find meaning in an ever-changing world.

From start to finish, the progression of Eisenman’s work is captivating as she delves into social and political issues from a deeply human perspective and no doubt leaves visitors with a lot to think about.