Lisa Yuskavage rose to fame in the 1990s for dreamily stylized, provocatively sensual paintings of young women in various states of undress. Her settings, suffused with fairytale-like ethereality, tend to be ambiguous in time and location, but in her latest solo show at David Zwirner the main four large-scale canvases present scenes that decidedly take place inside artists’ studios. Further clues—like wiring and cameras as well as allusions to Yuskavage’s past series—divulge, at the very least, a ballpark date range.
Yuskavage rendered each of these paintings with a different, dominant hue: Yellow Studio (2021) emits a sunny glow; Master Class (2021) is bathed in emerald green; Pink Studio (Rendezvous) (2021) materializes through shades of strawberry; Night Classes at the Department of Painting Drawing and Sculpture (2018–2020) [pictured] radiates scarlet. Occupants range, respectively, from a solitary woman, to a duo apparently in the midst of collaborating, to post-coital lovers, to a cozy student-teaching gathering. All of these, albeit Night Classes… and Pink Studio most directly, take up the lineage of Henri Matisse’s famed The Red Studio and its lesser-known companion, The Pink Studio, both completed in 1911.
Separately, a group of smaller works in the exhibition entails a number of preparatory studies for the artist studio-centric series. Bonfire Tondo (2021), for instance, portrays the same roaring fire that appears in Master Class, as the subject matter of the painting on which the pair of artists is focused.
Then, a final large-scale painting appears, at first glance, to be isolated thematically. Scissor Sisters (2020), as it’s called, depicts three women, all naked save for skimpy, hip-clinging garments, standing tall together in a field as they wield various weapons—two hold daggers and the third brandishes a gun pointed dead straight at the viewer. At second glance, one of the smaller pieces looks to echo the sentiments expressed through Scissor Sisters rather concisely: the face of a very young woman, perhaps a teenager, almost blends into the backdrop, while in the foreground her two hands bob up, both extending pink-manicured middle fingers upright. Its title is, appropriately, The Fuck You Painting (2020). —Rachel Small
Lisa Yuskavage, Night Classes at the Department of Painting Drawing and Sculpture, 2018-2020. © Lisa Yuskavage. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner