Aliza Nisenbaum, born in Mexico City and living in Brooklyn, paints first and second generation Americans and undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrants, many of whom she met when teaching a class, “English through Art History,” at IMI (Immigration Movement International), founded by Cuban American artist Tania Bruguera.
Nisenbaum received her B.F.A. in 2001 and her M.F.A. in 2005 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2017, she received a three month residency at the Minneapolis Institute of Art as well as a residency at the Whitney Museum.
Nisenbaum, when volunteering to teach and help at IMI, began to paint her students and their families. Working with her students as models enabled her to learn about their lives, their histories, and the places where they came from. These portraits have bold color – hot yellows and reds with chilled purples and blues – and pattern as they frame modest and intimate moments in her subjects’ lives. Her people are painted or paired with a montage of imagery of textiles and crafts from their homes or from the places where they were born.
Nisenbaum renders specific individuals in their own homes and communities. In her “La Talaverita, Sunday Morning NY Times” 1916, an undocumented father and daughter read the paper against a backdrop of richly painted, warmly colored Talavera Mexican tiles. They have a comfortable relationship with one another. However, because of the slightly skewed perspective, there is a feeling of instability as if they may fall or slide off the couch.
Her paintings personalize the immigrant experience and make visible people who are usually overlooked or unseen. Her paintings of the undocumented Mexican immigrants pay homage to the first wave of Mexican and Argentine realist painters to exhibit in the United States.
Nisenbaum has had exhibitions in Minneapolis, New York, and Tate Liverpool. She participated in the recent Whitney Biennial, and her work was shown in Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art in 2018. She participated in Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art’s exhibition “When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art,” 2019-2020.