This dark (but, some might say, cathartic) satire extends throughout much of “Al-ugh-ories,” as Eisenman has titled her show, nodding to the cocktail of sexuality, grotesquery, and symbolic power that it contains. Other earlier paintings—like Spring Fling
(1996), in which a
Venus figure is shackled to a wooden frame, or Commerce Feeds Creativity
(2004), in which the shadowy, emaciated figure of Free Market Capitalism force-feeds the bound and cowering figure of the Artist, fattening her up for consumption—also have the similarly potent quality of early-modern satirical cartoons.
But this style of painting is just one of numerous genres and histories that Eisenman has absorbed into her consciousness and, as Grace Dunham describes in her great essay on the painter’s work, “consumed, chewed up, and spit back out.” Eisenman’s work is so heavily referential that several of her paintings literally contain stacks of books, seemingly indexing the encyclopedic range of sources she draws on. These are not only art-historical, but literary, too. Volumes by Homer and Emily Dickinson are among them, and the array of movements, tropes, and characters that surface in her paintings do not overwhelm so much as provide layer upon layer of dense complexity, prompting viewers, at least this one, to puzzle over them endlessly.