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Eric Fischl (b. 1948)
signed, titled and dated 'MUSSELEATERS Eric Fischl 1992' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
70 x 58 in. (177.8 x 147.3 cm.)
Painted in 1992.
Mary Boone Gallery, New York

Lot Essay

"Fischl seems to be showing all, but what counts in his work is what is not stated, and can never be adequately stated. Fischl's pictures seem to promise us clarity about complex issues, but in fact suggest depth of a complexity that can never be fully deciphered. It is this that makes his pictures peculiarly opaque dreams, abysses of meaning we can never quiet climb out of once we have accepted their terms" (D. Kuspit, Fischl, New York 1987, p. 7).

Eric Fischl is a master story teller whose paintings unfurl an evocative narrative before our very eyes. As demonstrated in Musseleaters, the central theme of his vocabulary is physical and psychological nakedness. Typically, Fischl's characters act out their sociological explorations in such public arenas as beaches, back yards and the bedrooms of America. Infused with emotional interplay and strong sexual implications, this work from 1992 exemplifies unique approach to painting. The beach in Musseleaters has become the stage where Fischl experiments with the idea of the public becoming the private and vice versa. The viewer becomes simultaneously both a voyeur and a participant. The group of people standing in the shallows appears to be taunting one of their group by exaggeratedly eating some mollusks in front of her. However, their inherent power over her is undermined by their nakedness. Fischl's masterful handling of paint is clearly visible in the rolls of abundant flesh with which Fischl adorns their bodies. The realistic rendering of the scene draws us into a seemingly familiar world. However, in this recognizable, seemingly everyday scenario, Fischl hints at under currents of passivity and aggression.

Fischl's paintings mark, what many regard as, the return of the human body to contemporary painting. His painterly style and his portrayal of the female figure have drawn on the influences of a number of historical painters such as Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and American artists like Edward Hopper. But in contrast to these idealized images of femininity, Fischl is a master at depicting a truly modern vision of the human body. Fischl's style renders the skin with a personality of its own and the dual physicality of both the paint and the flesh is as much a part of Fischl's working method as is his desire to depict the modern human body.

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