October 24, 2020
Anton Kern Gallery is pleased to present Aliza Nisenbaum: Flora, an exhibition of new works on paper on the gallery’s third floor.
Nisenbaum is best known for her portrait paintings, which are fundamentally studies about intimacy. She spends many hours getting to know her subjects: sitting with them in person, becoming a part of their communities, and learning about their lives. As this became an impossibility during the pandemic--unequipped with people, canvas, and paint--Nisenbaum turned to drawing from memory, previous paintings, studies, and photographs, taking it as an opportunity and challenge to deepen her approach to the abstraction of faces. She also turned to drawing flowers, inspired by daily long walks around her temporary new Los Angeles neighborhood. Throughout the anxiety of isolation, Nisenbaum found comfort in nature and the plants and flowers she discovered, which also provided further solace by reminding her of the vegetation of her place of birth, Mexico. During her walks, she stayed in touch over the phone with family and friends, and many former sitters. Thus, succulents, sunflowers, and lively bouquets populate the exhibition alongside familiar faces--an embodiment of the artist’s multi-faceted new life and practice.
The works in Flora are presented as diptychs pairing these portraits of people with plants, becoming a way to symbolically send her subjects flowers. At the height of the pandemic in New York City, Nisenbaum thought and worried particularly of those friends and former sitters in immigrant communities who were especially vulnerable and in high-risk neighborhoods, yet felt helpless at the inability to offer a hug or some sort of simple token of warmth. The pairings create a symbiotic energy, both images equally rendered in loving detail by the artist: portrait and flower are imbued with palpable gestures of care and love. Particularly in such a moment of isolation, these diptychs become emblems of touch our current distancing can’t fulfill.
10% of all proceeds from works sold in this exhibition will go to UnLocal’s Immigrant Child Legal Services Project, Studio in a School NY, and The Weingart Center, Los Angeles.