Degree Critical - Art Review - April 6, 2017
American artist Alice Neel’s early adult life was marked by a series of traumas. In her twenties, she suffered the loss of two small daughters: the eldest who succumbed to illness before her first birthday, the second kidnapped by Carlos Enriquez, her Cuban-born husband who deserted Neel and spirited the little girl away to Havana, abandoning her to his parents. The losses resulted in a massive breakdown for Neel. She was institutionalized in Philadelphia, and attempted suicide on several occasions during her year’s stay in a hospital. After being released, Neel went north to New York to forge a new life for herself. By 1938, at the age of 38, she’d settled in East Harlem, known as El Barrio by its largely Spanish speaking population. It’s at this moment where the current exhibition of her portraits at David Zwirner, Alice Neel, Uptown, begins.