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Close to the Edge is not only the name of rock group YES’ seminal 1972 album, it’s the title of visual artist Nicole Eisenman’s 2014 oil painting.  In both, composition is king.  Largely praised for their kinetic chemistry, YES had that same juju that Eisenman captures with the protagonists and elements in her pieces.  In knowing the weight of this moniker and what Close to the Edge could evoke, the artist is keenly aware of the connotations and assumptions that she invites into her work.

Coded with social and cultural references, Eisenman’s pieces are rich with commentary.  As with Close to the Edge, in It is so, a couple makes love next to a table stand stacked with books such as The Iliad, The Sculpture of Picasso and Durer.  The fun stuff plays second fiddle to the reading material depicted in the painting, which seems to provide insight into the artist’s own artistic influences and the epic storytelling that goes on in her work.  There is humor, pathos and familiarity, and if one can recognize the signs, it’s like being let into an inside joke.  Throughout, Eisenman’s female voice is strong, and with a figurative and once-cartoonish approach, she pulls no punches in telling the viewer know what’s on her mind. 

According to the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, the recent MacArthur “Genius” employs “various techniques culled from art history to present a deeply personal, expressive body of work that explores matters of interpersonal, political, and economic interest relevant to the human condition.” But best to hear it from the artist herself: Eisenman is the keynote of the much-loved ICA SPEAKS series, coming up on February 5 at Palm Court in partnership with Miami Design District.  To RSVP, visit the website at

Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965, Verdun, France) is a painter who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2015); the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2014); the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis (2014); and Studio Voltaire, London (2012). Eisenman was featured in the 2012 Whitney Biennial and the Carnegie International in 2013, where she received the Carnegie Prize. In September 2015, Eisenman was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for her contribution to “expanding the critical and expressive capacity of the Western figurative tradition through works that engage contemporary social issues and phenomena.”

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