Lisa Yuskavage epic, explicit, erotic landscapes

Over a career now spanning 35 years, Lisa Yuskavage has produced paintings that are ebulliently colorful, unabashedly explicit, and epic in ambition. Since roughly 2007, the vastness of nature has played a significant role in her most ambitious large-scale paintings. Rather than simply depicting voluptuous nudes with landscape elements, her expansive canvases blur the line between the fantastical and the familiar, melding abstraction with realism to imagine entire worlds that are both highly detailed and vague in implication, inviting viewers to consider the mysterious societies she has conjured.

An exhibition of her work co-organized with the Aspen Art Museum appeared at the Baltimore Museum of Art March 28 – September 19, 2021. The exhibition brought together more than 15 paintings showing American artist Lisa Yuskavage expansive treatment of landscape through lush and dexterously crafted compositions that tantalize the eye and beguile the mind. 

I was unfamiliar with this artist until the Baltimore show, and – wow – I’ll never forget her work. If you’re awarding points for originality, Yuskavage ranks off the charts. I’ve never seen anything like this. That’s a good thing.

These pictures are tantalizing, titillating, challenging. Where do they fit in the art historical tradition of landscape painting. Is Claude Monet or Albert Bierstadt present here? What is Youskavage communicating? Her gaze depicts female figures in what seems to be a more stereotypically, hyper-sexualized male fashion. Am I reading that wrong?

In the parlance of the day, there’s a lot to unpack here.

Lisa Yuskavage. Wilderness. 2009. Collection of Liz and Eric Lefkofsky. ©Lisa Yuskavage. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner

Based in New York City, Lisa Yuskavage (born 1962, Philadelphia, PA) received her MFA from the Yale School of Art and BFA from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Recent solo exhibitions have been presented at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, MO (2016); Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA (2015); The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2011; organized as part of Dublin Contemporary 2011). Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2006); Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva (2001); and Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania (2000).

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