Intimism is a genre of art (and occasionally literature) depicting close, confined, intimate scenes, often with emotional weight and implied story, often of the domestic sort. “The Bedroom” by Van Gogh would be an example, though he would not have identified it as such. The term came about just a little later, with artists like Vuillard and Bonnard.
That’s exactly what you’ll find in “Intimisms,” a group show of modernist paintings at the James Cohan Gallery. A collection of twenty-six artists from across six decades, all organized by the gallery and by painter Aliza Nisenbaum, take us into the lives of their subjects at close range.
The hands of two people building a hearthfire together (“Fire Painting,” Giordanne Salley. 2016). A mother’s hand, draped casually and gracefully on a knee (“Mom Hand,” Jordan Casteel. 2014). Women asleep or weeping. Men in vulnerability. The focus in each painting is tight, that very focus a chapter in the story of the painting.
Many of the paintings will make the audience into voyeurs. Colorful nude bodies lie at rest across one another in Gahee Park’s “Night Talk.” In “Joachim Neurroschel, a 1970 painting by Sylvia Sleigh, a bare-chested man stares boldly back at the viewer from a Kahlo-esque background. Ridley Howard’s untitled painting depicts The Act itself, bodies made more real by the utter lack of detail in their setting.
The spark for the exhibit was lit in Nisenbaum when a curator of a Mexican gallery reviewed her work by comparing the privacy of the intimist genre to the public ‘privacy’ of the era of social media. Many of these works are, after all, self portraits, “selfies.”
“Intimisms” will be open at the James Cohen Gallery, 533 West 26th Street, Chelsea, through the end of July. Drop by to make a relationship with these personality-filled paintings and artists for yourself.