Lisa Yuskavage

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Lisa Yuskavage
Lisa Yuskavage at David Zwirner Gallery, 2011
Born (1962-05-16) May 16, 1962 (age 55)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Education Tyler School of Art
Yale School of Art
Known for Painting

Lisa Yuskavage (LĒS-ə yus-KĀ-vij) is an American artist who lives and works in New York City. She is known for her figurative paintings and figure paintings, in which seemingly ignoble subjects are depicted with classic, historical techniques, resulting in exquisitely painted, visually paradoxical canvases.[1]


Yuskavage was born in 1962 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She attended the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, and studied abroad during her third year through the Tyler School of Art’s program in Rome, before obtaining her BFA in 1984. Yuskavage received her MFA from the Yale School of Art in 1986.[2]


Since the early 1990s, Yuskavage has shaped her own genre of the nude—voluptuous, erotic, cartoonish, angelic young women, and more recently men, cast within atmospheric landscapes that appear part fiction, part real. She is widely associated with a re-emergence of the figurative in contemporary painting, and her complex, psychologically-charged narratives are often cinematic in scope, with the plots revealing themselves slowly.[3] Of the artist’s paintings, critic Roberta Smith has written: "The combination of mixed subliminal messages, deliciously artificial color and forthright sexuality is characteristic of Ms. Yuskavage's work, as is the journey from high to low to lower culture within a relatively seamless whole."[4]

Yuskavage’s oeuvre is characterized by her ongoing engagement with the history of painting, and in particular the genre of the nude, which for centuries was shrouded as religious subject matter.[1] Yet her paintings also encompass landscape and still life genres, and all three often appear within a single work. Yuskavage’s unique use of color is imbedded in Renaissance techniques as well as Color Field painting, and she cites diverse inspirations, including Italian painter Giovanni Bellini, Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, and French painter Edgar Degas.[5]

Critics have responded to Yuskavage’s works with diverse interpretations, many of which rely on binaries to capture the surreal nature of her subject matter; these descriptions include: “alienation and affection”, “self-love and self-loathing”, and “vulgarity and earnestness”. Theoretically, her paintings are associated with psychologically driven theories of viewing, such as that of the gaze.[6] However, the complexities inherent in her paintings deny singular interpretation; as curator and critic Christian Viveros-Fauné explains: “Yuskavage’s oeuvre... succeeds exactly to the degree that it refuses to be pinned down to any one of its many conflicted meanings. ‘I only load the gun’, [Yuskavage] has been known to say to those who insist on viewing a painting as an explanation.”[6]

She had a New York exhibit sell out before it opened, and one of her paintings sold at auction for more than $1 million.[7]

In September 2015, Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood opened at the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. This major solo exhibition presented the artist’s work spanning 25 years.[8] Additionally, Yuskavage is featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new online series, The Artist Project, launched in March 2015, in which she discusses Édouard Vuillard’s The Green Interior (1891).[9]

Lisa Yuskavage is represented by David Zwirner (New York) and by Greengrassi (London).[8] She has had four solo exhibitions at David Zwirner and six solo presentations at Greengrassi.[10]

In Popular Culture[edit]

Yuskavage's work, "Half-Family,[11]" was featured in Season 2, Episode 4 ("Lynch Pin") of the Emmy-nominated Showtime series, The L Word.


Solo exhibitions[edit]

Group exhibitions[edit]

  • Queensize - Female Artists from the Olbricht Collection, me Collectors Room Stiftung Olbricht, Berlin (2014)[12]
  • Lisa Yuskavage, The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2011)
  • Nude, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (2014)
  • Expanding the Field of Painting, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2013)
  • Print/Out, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012)
  • New to the Print Collection: Matisse to Bourgeois, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012)
  • American Exuberance, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2011)
  • Face to Face, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2010)
  • Between Picture and Viewer: The Image in Contemporary Painting, School of Visual Arts, New York (2010)
  • Bad Habits, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York (2009)
  • Paint Made Flesh, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee (2008) (traveled to The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; The Memorial Art Gallery, The University of Rochester, Rochester, New York)
  • Diana and Actaeon: The Forbidden Glimpse of the Naked Body, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf (2008)
  • Bad Painting - good art, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna (2008)
  • The Present: The Monique Zajfen Collection, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2007)
  • Multiplex: Directions in Art 1970 to Now, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007)
  • Artist Collaborations: Fifty Years of Universal Limited Art Editions, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007)
  • America Today: 300 Years of Art from the USA, National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2007)
  • 5th International Biennial: Disparities and Deformations, Our Grotesque, SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2004)
  • de Kooning to Today: Highlights from the Permanent Collection, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2003)
  • Supernova: Art of the 1990s from the Logan Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2003)
  • Greater New York, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York (2000)
  • 2000 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2000)
  • 46th Corcoran Biennial: Media/Metaphor, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2000)


Museum collections which hold works by the artist include Art Institute of Chicago; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.[12]


Yuskavage has been the recipient of honors and awards that include the Tiffany Foundation Grant (1996); the Founder's Day Certificate of Honor, Tyler School of the Arts, Philadelphia (2000); and the Temple University Gallery of Success Award, Temple University, Philadelphia (2005).[13]




External links[edit]