New York, 550 West 21st Street
American painter Eric Fischl’s virtuosity lies in his ability to infuse politics into his otherwise buoyant and handsome paintings of Long Island suburban life. His sharp grasp of ennui and fatigue embedded in upper middle-class backyard pools and well-decorated interiors makes strong commentary on a lifestyle he mostly grew up with. Described in his own words as "against a backdrop of alcoholism and a country club culture obsessed with image over content,” his childhood in New York and later in Long Island has strong influence in his sleek paintings; however, his approach to his subject matter remains equally distant and analytical.
Late America at Skarstedt’s Chelsea location brings together Fischl’s most current body of work that made during and after 2016 presidential election period. Fischl’s approach to his subject matter is oblique, yet poignant. The eponyms painting shows a young kid, wrapped in American flag, holds his teddy bear while staring at his naked father who seems to have passed out for an ambiguous reason. The setting—unsurprisingly an upper middle-class backyard with a pool— is backdropped by two housekeepers mowing the grass. The narrative in the painting is both familiar and oblique. Physical separation between two groups of people embodies their socio-political separation. The closeness of the father and son to the viewer in contrast to barely visible silhouettes of gardeners presents a contemporary American landscape.
“Fischl’s early paintings exhibited a disturbing kind of voyeurism, in scenes that might have been written by John Cheever or John Updike. The two defining paintings of that period — Bad Boy, which depicts a young boy standing before a woman, perhaps his mother, sprawled naked on a bed, while he feels for her handbag; and Sleepwalker, in which a teenager masturbates in a paddling pool, bathed in Edward Hopper light – were representative of the uncertain boundaries, the disquieting taboos, that became his constant theme,” notes Tim Adams in his 2014 The Guardian article about Fischl’s works.
The exhibition runs through June 24, 2017.