Eykyn Maclean is pleased to present Isolated, which runs from 13 November – 15 December at our New York gallery. Isolated examines the themes of societal alienation, anguish, and detachment through the works of six major 20th century artists – Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Alberto Gicometti, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bruce Nauman, and Mike Kelley.
In Post-War Europe, Bacon, Auerbach, and Giacometti exposed the inner trauma and conflict that the individual faced in a still broken society. Their three portraits in this exhibition portray the artists’ most scrutinized subjects: Bacon himself; Gerda Boehm, Auerbach’s cousin (his first portrayal of her); and Diego, Giacometti’s brother. In spite of Auerbach's and Giacometti's denial of an emotional intent to their work, they nonetheless express a bleak, existentialist outlook, while Bacon's more overtly nihilistic series of self-portraits from the seventies emanate from the suicide of his lover, George Dyer, in 1971.
In the 1980s, Jean-Michel Basquiat typified the outsider artist by communicating the ongoing suppression of the African American within the supposedly liberal haven of New York City. Red Rabbit is likely a reference to Br'er Rabbit, the wily trickster from the Uncle Remus folktales, or Eshu, the sly god of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, here transformed into a fierce and furious creature, perhaps the artist himself.
Bruce Nauman’s Hanging Heads # 1 (Blue Andrew, Mouth Open / Red Julie with Cap) encapsulates the theme of detachment. Isolated and expressionless, Nauman’s disembodied wax heads convey the limitations of human communication, their closed eyes emphasizing our soulless existence. By reversing both of the casts, Nauman further alienates each head, prohibiting dialogue between the two.
The exhibition culminates with the social detachment of Mike Kelley’s Ahh… Youth in which each portrait is separated into single frames. Kelley’s actual high-school yearbook photo is reduced in size, emphasizing his own feelings of otherness. The artist is aware this photo makes him appear awkward and abused, similar to the tattered stuffed animals which in adulthood have taken on a menacing aspect, the combined images conveying the trauma and anxiety of Kelley’s childhood and adolescent years.
This small but highly focused show seeks to highlight the intense emotional isolation that each of these artists expressed in the second half of the 20th century.