Following the advent of the genre by its earliest French practitioners, artists have practiced successive modes of intimism inside rooms and behind closed doors, amongst friends and confidants, through diary entries and inner monologues, revealing confessions and secrets, all filtered through their aestheticized private view. The style privileges an artist’s ineffable affinities and communion with his or her subject, rather than emphasizing direct observation and storytelling. Intimisms considers the artists who champion this introspection, focusing on the interior spaces of their studios, living spaces, and bedrooms, while looking to friends, family, and lovers as subjects. Contemporary painters continue to press and stretch against the subtle confines of the genre, updating this endeavor for the 21st century.
For modern audiences, the most intimate moments are often posted, liked, and hashtagged instantaneously. How then are these previously private, sometimes clandestine, moments preserved in our era? Writing about a younger generation of painters working through the legacy of the Intimists, writer and curator Chris Sharp of Lulu in Mexico City raises doubts, “about the feasibility of intimacy, perceiving it less as a fact of life than an ethical mode, won through the increasingly rare act of paying attention.” For these artists, the act of painting actualizes and secures the personal intimacy they seek with their subjects.
Like Bonnard and Vuillard before them, these artists allow the physical interior to serve as a symbol for the soul and psyche, revealing that one’s personal viewpoint—a subjective view of reality—holds unique and vital meaning.
We would like to thank and credit Chris Sharp, from whose essay “Aliza Nisenbaum: Portraits, Letters, Books and Flowers,” this exhibition was in large part inspired.
Aliza Nisenbaum (b. Mexico City, Mexico) is a New York based artist. She is an assistant professor at Columbia University School of the Arts and has exhibited both in the United States and internationally. Recent exhibitions include Mary Mary, Glasgow, UK; White Columns, New York, NY; and Lulu, Mexico City, Mexico. Her work was also included in the Biennial of the Americas, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO; the Rufino Tamayo Painting Biennial, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico; Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, Italy; The Renaissance Society, Chicago, IL; and the Poor Farm, Manawa, WI.
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