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Acquired from the above by the present owner
London, greengrassi, Lisa Yuskavage, October 4 - November 17, 2007
Emerging in the mid-1990s as one of the late century’s most important contemporary figurative painters, Lisa Yuskavage has continually pushed the boundaries of traditional portrait painting. Similar to works by her contemporaries such as John Currin and Elizabeth Peyton, Lisa Yuskavage’s paintings of women reveal an admiration for figuration of the past with a contemporary voice. Uniquely and unlike these artists, whose paintings often depict recognizable characters from their own lives, Yuskavage relies on fictional depictions of the female nude or partial nude for her subject matter. “I am quite conscious that I am creating fiction”, she has said. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to construct and manipulate them aggressively as paintings” (Lisa Yuskavage, quoted in Lisa Yuskavage, exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, 2000, p. 10).
In the present lot, Yuskavage depicts two voluptuous women embracing amongst a pile of rubble. Painted in rich hues of cool violets and warm golds, Rubble simultaneously recalls the likes of the Renaissance masters like Carravagio in her expert use of the oil medium and Parmigianino in her impossibly proportioned subjects. The figure closest to the viewer is depicted partially clothed in a luminous, golden dress behind which her friend, or possibly lover, depicted in the nude, comforts her. The ambiguity of their relationship is heightened by the placement of another ghostly nude figure in the distance behind them, staring off into the left side of the canvas. Indeed, the women in Rubble do not make direct eye contact with the viewer, a characteristic of Yuskavage’s paintings that make them all the more thought-provoking. As poignantly described in a letter by David Zwirner to the artist regarding Yuskavage’s women of 2006, a year before this work was painted, he writes, “I see women who are fragile, vulnerable, and exposed, looking back at me. They are not real, but they still make me uncomfortable. And I can’t help thinking that it’s the painting itself looking back at me: naked, heavy, with all its baggage in tow and yet still viable and alive. Then I can stop worrying about where your women are going or where they are coming from, but instead lose myself in the medium itself” (David Zwirner, quoted in Lisa Yuskavage, exh. cat., David Zwirner, New York, 2006, n.p.). In its subversively mysterious setting, Rubble’s females are even more obviously fictional than others in Yuskavage’s oeuvre, allowing us to concentrate on, as Mr. Zwirner aptly espouses, the artist’s masterful utilization of painting’s most traditional conventions to create a composition that is as much beautiful as it is uncomfortable.
New York Auction 17 May 2017