Aliza Nisenbaum headshot pic with installation of her paintings in the background.

Aliza Nisenbaum

New York City

Aliza Nisenbaum received the Creative Capital Award in 2024. Born in Mexico City, Nisenbaum makes portrait paintings that are the manifestation of exchanges with her subjects that take place over time. Collaborating with distinct communities, she employs the focused attention of observational painting to create the conditions for close-looking. Distinct social groups are at the foreground of her work, including immigrant communities, dancers, opera theater performers, members of grassroot organizations, subway, airport, and health workers. Her lengthy engagement with her subjects allows her to understand their histories and dignity beyond the space of portraiture. Recent Solo exhibitions: MET Opera (2023-2024); Queens Museum (2023); LaGuardia Airport (2022); Tate Liverpool, Kemper Museum of Art (2021); Art on the Underground Commission, London and Anton Kern gallery, NY (2019). Notable group exhibitions: Gwangju Biennale in South Korea (April 2023); The Renaissance Society, Chicago (2020); Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil (2020); The Whitney Biennial, New York (2017); XV Rufino Tamayo Painting Biennial, Mexico City (2012). Her work is found in collections including the Tate, The Art Institute of Chicago, The ICA Boston, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Hirshhorn Museum, The Kemper Museum of Art, The San Diego Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. From 2015 until 2021, she served as Assistant Professor of Visual Arts and Director of Graduate Studies at Columbia University School of the Arts.

Modes of Assembly

Aliza Nisenbaum paints portraits that share resources, skills, and, ultimately, give social representation to the work alliances and leisure environments sustained by community groups.

Artist Bio

The Modes of Assembly paintings aim at capturing alliances through depicting the material conditions of work environments. In what will be Nisenbaum’s most ambitious project to date, and a years-long engagement, this series focuses on the workers of industrial factories in northern Mexico. American companies have begun showing a preference for sources of factory labor from Northern Mexico rather than China. Recent media accounts of “nearshoring” suggest that the intensification of trade between Mexico and the U.S. put even greater pressure on one of the most frequently crossed international boundaries in the world, both in terms of people and material goods. In light of these developments, Nisenbaum has established a relationship with a large metalworking factory in Guadalajara, Jalisco that is willing to open its doors for Nisenbaum to meaningfully engage with their local community of factory workers. The portraits index this witnessing through the cumulative register of time that is needed to put paint to canvas. Inspired by Diego Rivera, who painted large murals of industrial factories, Nisenbaum’s work has often been compared to the Mexican Muralists in both its desire for social awareness, and the large mural-sized scale. This inherited belief in art’s social role, and a desire to integrate the arts into everyday public life, has led Nisenbaum to explore the meaning of community among workers in the service economy. Her current project interrogates whether the experience of those communities might be brought into productive social and aesthetic dialogue.

Award Year

In Progress