The most riveting painting in
’s newest body of work shows a small boy draped in the American flag as he leans over a naked man, who might be his father.
The man lies on the ground in a fetal position so that only his backside—a tan-lined, aging rear; hairy legs; and bare, pink feet—is visible. The scene is unnerving, and we can’t help but wonder: What the hell is going on?
“Clearly something is terribly wrong,” says Fischl, who is on the phone from his studio in Long Island. “But Daddy doesn’t have the answers.”
We’re talking about the titular piece in “Late America,” Fischl’s solo show opening at New York’s Skarstedt Gallery on May 2nd. Across the exhibition, the vulnerability and powerlessness captured in the body of “Daddy,” as Fischl refers to the painting’s adult male subject, is a common theme.
Fischl began the piece shortly after the results of the 2016 U.S. election came in. He was surprised and confused by the outcome, and in response, he headed to his studio. As he channeled feelings of frustration onto the canvas, Late America—and its incapacitated central figure—emerged.
In this context, “Daddy” could represent the blindsided liberal, left feeling paralyzed by Trump’s rise to power. Or maybe he’s Trump himself, a political novice struggling to gain a footing in his new role.
But while the painting sprung from a heated reaction to politics, Fischl makes clear that he’s not out to make a political statement, exactly. Instead, he sees the work and the whole series that came after it as historical.
“It’s about a pivotal moment in the U.S. when the white male figure no longer has the answers, when the future doesn’t seem to be inhabited by the old power structure,” he explains.