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Property from an Important Private Collection


signed and dated ‘Lisa Yuskavage 2009’ (on the reverse)
oil on linen
70 x 74 1⁄2 in. (177.8 x 189.2 cm.)
Painted in 2009.
David Zwirner, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
M. de la Torre, "Lisa Yuskavage," BOMB Magazine, Fall 2011, pp. 82 and 87 (illustrated).
S. Murg, "Lisa Yuskavage," Art + Auction, September 2011, p. 66 (illustrated).
S. Hudson, Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood: Paintings 1991-2015, New York, 2015, pp. 170-171 (illustrated).
New York, Visual Arts Gallery at the School of Visual Arts, Between Picture and Viewer: The Image in Contemporary Painting, November-December 2010. p. 71.
Dublin, Royal Hibernian Academy, Lisa Yuskavage: Tragic Land (organized as part of the Dublin Contemporary, 2011), September-October 2011.

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Head of Department

Lot Essay

With a masterful touch and subject matters that challenge convention, Lisa Yuskavage has established herself as one of the foremost figure painters working today. Studio is a particularly seductive example of the artist’s approach to deeper issues that employs the act of looking to question extant images of women in both art history and popular culture. Instead of confronting the viewer head-on, Yuskavage uses her adept handling of the brush to invite them into their private spaces. However, once there, her abstraction of the female form and exaggerated, depersonalized figures become unsettling and surreal, captivating the audience in something they have been taught to desire in an effort to recontextualize and reframe. Roberta Smith, writing about a 2001 exhibition, noted, “Moving between the triad of the female body, the gaze and the female soul, Ms. Yuskavage has cultivated a terrain of rich and disturbing ambiguities, making works that can be both tender and astoundingly harsh. She has been aided in this endeavor by her devotion to a second triad, that of light, color and flesh as they can be conveyed by the plasticity of oil paint” (R. Smith, “A Painter Who Loads the Gun and Lets the Viewer Fire It”, The New York Times, January 12, 2001). Leveraging her sensual handling of this traditional medium, Yuskavage is able to problematize the depictions of women throughout art history while also flattening the divide between high art and the painted pinups of late twentieth century softcore periodicals.

Bathed in shades of bright green, two figures in various states of undress turn toward the viewer as if just caught unawares in the eponymous Studio. Their legs interlocking, the two women peer out from behind mops of hair that cover their doll-like faces, a sharp contrast to their voluptuous, emphatically sexualized bodies. The standing figure wears only tall socks as she loosely clutches two thin paintbrushes in her slim hand. The bikini tan lines are starkly evident on her breasts and buttocks even in the chartreuse light of the scene. Her companion grabs her by the waist with one hand, wearing a confetti-dotted slip and striped socks as she sits upon a blanketed bench against the far wall. Both of their expressions are enigmatic and mask-like. To the right of the central duo, a large curtain has been drawn back, its tied fabric bunching up where the rope gathers. To the left, an empty easel stands over a number of shadowy canvases and plays host to a bevy of paintbrushes and the detritus of artmaking. "Entering a Lisa Yuskavage show is like falling into a candy-colored female fever dream,” notes filmmaker Tamara Jenkins. “In this strange psychosexual universe, female figures stand along, baring their breasts in fields of peachy pink, lemon yellow, or minty blue" (T. Jenkins, "Holy Innocents" in T. Jenkins, Lisa Yuskavage, Small Paintings, 1993-2004, New York 2004, p. 9). The veil of syrupy tones attracts the viewer perhaps even more than the promiscuous subject matter, and in tandem, the two elements work in a bewitching harmony. Entranced, one cannot help but realize there is something amiss until after the initial viewing as the artist unravels her idealized, erotic depictions of women and links them to subjects of the past.

Yuskavage’s approach to figuration is decidedly contemporary, but her myriad influences imbue the characters with a nostalgic turn that is both art historical and also verges on kitsch simultaneously. The standing woman in Studio is a prime example of this hybridity, her exaggerated thighs and buttocks taper to an impossibly slim waist, and the slender curve of her arms and torso recall the near-caricature of Mannerist canvases by Parmigianino. At the same time, the overt sexuality mixes with a manufactured timidity and coyness bringing to mind the saucy sitters of Yuskavage’s peer John Currin. The porcelain faces, their individuality diluted in their aesthetic perfection, draw allusions to the wide-eyed innocents of Margaret Keane and the painted pinups of yesteryear. She often uses the same faces and figures in many of her paintings, “the repurposing has been a very interesting things for me. I’ve always been interested in how people like Fassbinder reused actors, Hanna Schygulla and even himself, over and over again” (L. Yuskavage, quoted by M. De La Torre, “Lisa Yuskavage,” BOMB, October 1, 2011 online: [accessed: 4⁄14/2022]).

When asked about her sources, the artist will often point to men’s magazines of the late twentieth century, and to the fact that her paintings draw from her own experiences happening upon Penthouse magazines during her school years. Poring over the glossy images for the first time, she felt a range of emotions: attraction, disgust, and a sense of self-awareness as she compared herself to the airbrushed bodies on the page. By bringing these feelings to bear in her work, she effectively investigates popular opinions surrounding the nude and issues of sexuality often covered up by the more puritanical elements of society. “I only load the gun,” she has said in the past. (L. Yuskavage, quoted in R. Smith, op. cit.). It is up to the viewer to ascertain their own place within the artist’s risqué tableaus as they navigate the provocative composition and come to terms with their own inborn assumptions.

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