Nicole Eisenman Tunnel of Love 1998

  • Not on view

The title of Eisenman’s drawing evokes a vintage carnival ride and the chaste embrace of lovers floating in fairground boats, but her imagery is blunter. Naked lesbian couples engage in a variety of lascivious acts as they float toward a gaping tunnel; an androgynous figure, towering and embarrassed, wades around them, an uncomfortable and unwilling voyeur. The artist’s sensuously modeled nudes occupy a space with no clear male presence, subverting a history of art filled with naked women painted by and for men. As Eisenman has explained, “I was painting against my education—against a man-made art world, the one I had learned about, with all its masters. I wanted to turn it upside down. I was becoming aware that there was no space for me.”

Eisenman’s frank depictions of charged narratives, her confrontation of the taboos that surround sex and gender, and her biting sense of humor (“there is always a tongue firmly planted in the cheek of my paintings”) give her work the distinct edge for which it is admired. Beyond her immediate stylistic goals in each individual artwork, she aims more broadly to challenge long-held but outdated expectations about who art is for and what it should do for her continually expanding audience.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Ink on gessoed paper
44 1/2 x 54 1/2" (113 x 138.4 cm)
Gift of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg
Object number
© 2023 Nicole Eisenman
Drawings and Prints

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