- Lisa Yuskavage
- signed and dated 2012 on the overlap
- oil on linen
- 77 by 60 in. 195.6 by 152.4 cm.
Private Collection, Sydney
Acquired by the present owner from the above
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From her exploration of art history, Yuskavage has gleaned many lessons from masters, both old and new, on how to handle perspective, employ color, and reproduce light and texture in order to captivate the viewer. It is the fusion of the technical skill and mastery of these classic techniques that she employs coupled with her contemporary renderings of the most widely utilized subject matter in the Western world, the female nude, which allows for Yuskavage’s work to so successfully communicate a more robust and conflicted vision of feminine beauty. Yuskavage, with her confrontational approach, seems intent to simultaneously seduce and repel the viewer. She asks us both to look and admire her sensual (although often exaggerated) nude girls and at the same time to move past the notion of the traditional “male gaze.” Positing a new way to engage the desire of the eye, Yuskavage sets out to examine the expanse between and interconnections within the worlds of 1970s soft focus pornography and traditional images of the female beauty as rendered by old master such as Vermeer, Bellini, Bronzino and Rembrandt.
Her work strengthens the vitality that oil paint has in its ability to render light and flesh. Upon first glance at Dusk, the central figure's exaggerated features (her breasts and torso) appear cartoonish. But unlike caricature, Yuskavage's painting technique follows a slow process, in which she builds up the canvas surface with the utmost care and deliberation. Rosy and ripe, the pneumatic breasts appear painted in tickled and licked manner, brushed lightly and gently smeared—teasingly intimate. She handles paint with extreme sophistication, a technique that she shares with her contemporary John Currin. That the figure is so exquisitely painted and the subject matter so provocative and prohibited problematizes the issue of painting itself. The hypersexualized women are erotic and distorted while simultaneously constituting some of the most convincingly cultural narratives in contemporary art.
Yuskavage's work floats between euphoric fantasy and terrifying dream. Executed in 2012, Dusk belongs to a body of signature works by the American artist. Using the female as subject matter, the present lot belongs to a series that adopts darker shades of paint to infuse the painting with more of a subtle and elegant appearance, as opposed to her more electric and aesthetically poignant canvases. With its palette of dark blues, pinks and purples, Yuskavage uses the female as a sex object, revealing parts of her body enticing her audiences’ gazes. Frozen in her pose, the viewer is left to imagine the woman beyond what Yuskavage visually discloses, namely the primary subject’s face which seems to be obscured by her hair. The background figures also appear incomplete. Through the use of the sexuality and femininity, the artist captures the essence of beauty never crossing the line where sexuality becomes vulgarity, infusing her sitter with a sense of innocence and shyness.
Whether the artist is consciously or unconsciously perpetuating or abolishing stereotypes of the female form, Dusk delves into the human psyche to illuminate our understanding of ourselves and investigate emotions that make us feel at once guilty and powerful. As Roberta Smith points out, “Yuskavage has approached this form from both the outside and the inside: her distortions exaggerate the way women are objectified both by society and by themselves. But her real subject is, I think, the inside, the female soul and psyche.” (R. Smith, “A Painter Who Loads the Gun and the Let’s the Viewer Fire It”, The New York Times, January 12, 2001, p. E53). The attractive, voluptuous and engaging compositions she presents are a means of inviting viewers in to examine both the inner soul of her art, but more importantly that of today’s women. Yuskavage ultimately produces works that are compassionate yet staggeringly harsh; playful and yet forcefully introspective.