For more than thirty years, Lisa Yuskavage’s highly original approach to figurative painting has challenged conventional understandings of the genre. Her simultaneously bold, eccentric, exhibitionist, and introspective characters assume dual roles of subject and object, complicating the position of viewership. At times playful and harmonious, and at other times rueful and conflicted, these characters are cast within fantastical compositions in which realistic and abstract elements coexist and color determines meaning. While the artist’s painterly techniques evoke art historical precedents, her motifs are often inspired by popular culture, creating an underlying dichotomy between high and low and, by implication, sacred and profane, harmony and dissonance. Yet her oeuvre compellingly resists categorization, insisting instead on its own kind of emotional formalism in which characters and pictorial inventions assume equal importance
Born in Philadelphia, Yuskavage received her BFA from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, in 1984 and her MFA from the Yale University School of Art in 1986. Since 2005, the artist’s work has been represented by David Zwirner. In 2006, two solo exhibitions were concurrently presented at David Zwirner and Zwirner & Wirth, New York, followed by presentations at the gallery in 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017, and a two-part exhibition in 2018. Her 2021 exhibition of new paintings marked her seventh solo show with David Zwirner Gallery.
In 2015, The Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, presented Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood, a major solo exhibition spanning twenty-five years of the artist’s work. The show traveled to the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in 2016. A large-scale, comprehensive publication by Skira Rizzoli, published on occasion of the exhibition, created in close collaboration with Yuskavage, includes texts by renowned art historians, curators, and writers including Christopher Bedford, Suzanne Hudson, Catherine Lord, and Siddhartha Mukherjee, as well as an interview with the artist by Katy Siegel.
Yuskavage’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions worldwide, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2000); Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva (2001); Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2006); and The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (organized as part of Dublin Contemporary 2011).
In 2020, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Aspen Art Museum co-organized a solo presentation of the artist’s work, Wilderness, focusing on the ways she has used landscape in her work since the earliest watercolors Tit Heaven series from the early 1990’s. The exhibition was first shown at the Aspen Art Museum in 2020 and travelled to the Baltimore Museum of Art in spring 2021.
Museum collections which hold works by the artist include the Art Institute of Chicago; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Long Museum, Shanghai; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Seattle Art Museum; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Yuskavage lives and works in New York.