“While painting has historically been a platform for wild invention and misbehavior, what distinguishes Yuskavage is her willingness to merge the refinement and grand tradition of oil painting with the expansive vocabulary of transgression and empowerment,” says Christopher Bedford, Henry and Lois Foster Director of the Rose Art Museum and curator of the exhibition. “The exhibition and accompanying catalogue will reposition Yuskavage’s body of work and its relationship to feminism and the female body.”
The Brood tracks Lisa Yuskavage’s development from her emergence in the early 1990s to the present, by focusing on major works in three related painting formats: diptychs, triptychs, and polyptychs. The first two formats are common in the history of art and used conventionally in the context of this exhibition, referring respectively to paintings in two and three parts. The third category, also conventional in art historical parlance, is used somewhat differently here, referring not to a scene presented across several panels, but to a single panel portraying multiple figures. These formal structures have not been a constant in Yuskavage’s career, but emerge periodically. Often, the artist’s most challenging and significant works occur in these formats. As a result, this exhibition is not so much a comprehensive survey of Yuskavage’s career but a story of notable apexes of creativity that together advance an account of her development and identity as a painter.
In addition to redefining Yuskavage’s work in the context of the broader social and cultural narrative of the visual arts, the catalogue and exhibition will deal explicitly with power and class, both abiding interests for the artist, and topics not emphasized in the existing literature. As Yuskavage herself observes, feminism means something very different to people who emerge from the working class and without the benefit of a college education. Progressive ideologies, academic feminism included, claim to speak for the oppressed, but those same ideologies are more often than not written for the masses by the highly educated upper middle class. Yuskavage, one of the first in her family to attend college, espouses through her work a practical, feminist set of principles that will be dramatized by the paintings assembled in The Brood.
Drawing liberally on the grotesque, crudity, vulgarity, and off-color humor, Yuskavage’s way of painting, and the subjects she paints, compel people to think honestly about their own personal biases, mores, appetites and dislikes, and to engage in conversation with her bracing works. A carnivalesque celebration of painting and its enduring capacity to rub up against the world, this exhibition will shift the viewer’s understanding of Yuskavage’s art as well as the social worlds to which her paintings so uncomfortably relate.
The presentation of The Brood represents an extraordinary opportunity to engage a broad and diverse constituency of students, scholars and the general public. Yuskavage will have a brief residency at the Rose, supported by the Warhol Foundation, during which time she will mentor young artists and speak in a range of forums about her work.