LOS ANGELES — Judging from the paintings and drawings on view at Susan Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Nicole Eisenman has been thinking a lot about angry white men. They are almost the exclusive population throughout the expansive gallery. There is a large contingent of shooters, each confronting us from behind a firearm aimed directly outward, so that to look at the drawings is to stare down a gun-barrel. These shooter drawings are almost all from 2016, with a few from 2017 and one from 2018, elaborated in ink, charcoal, oil, acrylic, and pencil. This last is the largest, and the only one bearing a title, “The Shooter.” One of the untitled drawings, in pencil and blue ballpoint pen, shows a man pointing his gun at us with one hand while the other grasps his penis. Along the bottom margin Eisenman has written “BAMSPLOOSH.”
While there is nothing original about equating guns with penises, the full array of drawings in Dark Light reveals Eisenman’s mind ping-ponging through a number of visual rhymes, adding up to many of the show’s most compelling moments. The circle of the gun barrel becomes the end of a cigarette smoked by impassive men. In one case, smoke billows from a man’s right nostril; in another, a sooty cloud issues from a cigarette belonging to an African American in a drawing titled “A Moment of General Anesthesia” (2018), suggesting this man’s need for relief from pain of America’s continuous police shootings of black men. Further iterations of the black circle appear: in a small 2016 sketch it is a bullet hole in the middle of someone’s face, in others it is a darkened sun. A 2015 ink drawing titled “Black Sun” has the cheerless orb spewing fecal liquid that piles like a mound of pudding below, resembling a pipe depositing sewage in our waterways. Finally and inescapably, the circle is an anus.
Nicole Eisenman: Dark Light continues at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects (6006 Washington Blvd, Culver City, Los Angeles) through April 21.
Fascinating viewing and reading, you can do more of both at Hyperallergic.