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b. 1965, France

Nicole Eisenman Biography

Celebrated New York artist Nicole Eisenman's paintings, drawings, prints collages, and sculptures are packed with emotional rawness and dark humour. They combine feminist and queer activism, overt sexuality, and punk culture, with appropriations and parodies of Western art history and popular culture.

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Through her works spanning over three decades, Eisenman addresses issues relating to gender, race, socio-economic inequality, and violence. Her images, however, should not be simply regarded as political activism; rather, she speaks from her own experiences and emotions only. In Eisenman's interview for the catalogue of Al-ugh-ories (2016, New Museum, New York) she explained she couldn't 'claim to have a voice for anyone other than myself'.

Nicole Eisenman was born in Verdun, France, but spent her childhood in the leafy affluent suburban setting of Scarsdale, New York. Taking an early interest in art at high school, Eisenman went on to study fine art at the Rhode Island School of Design. During her studies, she spent an influential year in Rome, where she became enamoured with Renaissance painting.

After graduating in 1987, Eisenman immediately moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where, rooted in the flourishing local art scene, she experimented with various mediums.

Nicole Eisenman's early drawings and paintings, which combined dark humour with strong views on popular culture and a knowledge of Western art, drew the attention of Ann Philbin. The former director of The Drawing Center in New York encouraged Eisenman to focus on expressing her own views and experiences.

Exploring female tropes across art history, comics, and pornography in ink drawings, gouache on paper, and paintings, Eisenman's first major art world debut came at the 1995 Whitney Biennial. She contributed an imposing mural, Self-Portrait with Exploded Whitney (1995), depicting herself painting on a solitary wall amidst the rubble of a collapsed Breuer building with men fleeing the scene.

Throughout her two-dimensional works, Eisenman typically presents expressionistically rendered figures in groups, pairs, or alone, that are painted in unnaturalistic tones of sickly white, yellow, blue, brown, or red.

The visually distinct palette and texture of each figure in Nicole Eisenmen's Biergarten at Night (2007)—one of her many mural-like 'Beer Garden' pictures, which underpinned her earlier work of the 2000s—shows the influence of the unnaturalistic fauvist palette. Meanwhile, the crowded yet disconnected subject matter echoes the paintings of French urban impressionists like Renoir.

Towards the late 2000s, Eisenman expanded her subject matter beyond crowded scenes to create smaller, humorous individual works like Going Down the River on the USS J-Bone of an Ass (2017), painted crisper but with a similarly unnaturalistic palette.

In recent years, Nicole Eisenman's sculptures, which began with a series of masks in 2017, have gained increasing attention. One of her more iconic pieces, first shown at the Whitney Biennial in 2019 and titled Proccession (2019), is a sculptural installation featuring subverted references to revered and nationalistic imagery of European art, like Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware, and Rodin's The Thinker—the latter now reduced to a prostrate figure billowing infrequent puffs of steam from the rear.

Starting with Sketch For A Fountain (2017) for Skulptur Projekte Münster, Nicole Eisenman has presented a series of public sculpture projects involving a parody of the familiar male iconography seen in public fountains. Around rectangular pools, Eisenman sardonically places a selection of lethargic and unkempt, grotty-looking male figures—roughly sculpted in a manner evoking the figures in her paintings. The water feature element of these works consists of multiple leaks springing unceremoniously from various limbs.

Eisenman has received growing recognition for her distinctive, defiantly figurative practice in recent years, receiving a Guggenheim Grant in 1996, the Carnegie Prize in 2013, and the esteemed MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2015. In 2018, she was nominated into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The following year she participated in the 58th Venice Biennale.

The artist's work features in several major public collections, including New York's Museum of Modern Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art; The American Academy of Arts and Letters; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Denver Art Museum; the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020

Exhibition view: Nicole Eisenman, Where I Was, It Shall Be, Hauser & Wirth, Somerset (3 October 2020–10 January 2021). © Nicole Eisenman. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Ken Adlard.

Nicole Eisenman Featured Artworks

View All (9)
Untitled by Nicole Eisenman contemporary artwork
Nicole EisenmanUntitled, 2020Paper, collage and paint
101.6 x 151.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Untitled by Nicole Eisenman contemporary artwork
Nicole EisenmanUntitled, 2020Paper and collage
76.8 x 57.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Sketch for a Fountain by Nicole Eisenman contemporary artwork
Nicole EisenmanSketch for a Fountain, 2017Bronze, plaster, pumps, water
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Where I Was, It Shall Be by Nicole Eisenman contemporary artwork
Nicole EisenmanWhere I Was, It Shall Be, 2020Oil on canvas
165.1 x 208.3 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Sun In My Eye On The Beach by Nicole Eisenman contemporary artwork
Nicole EisenmanSun In My Eye On The Beach, 2019Oil on canvas
147.3 x 111.8 x 3.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Going Down River on the USS J-Bone of an Ass by Nicole Eisenman contemporary artwork
Nicole EisenmanGoing Down River on the USS J-Bone of an Ass, 2017Oil on canvas
325.12 x 264.16 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Biergarten at Night by Nicole Eisenman contemporary artwork
Nicole EisenmanBiergarten at Night, 2007Oil on canvas
165.1 x 208.3 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery

Nicole Eisenman Current & Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Nicole Eisenman, Where I Was, It Shall Be at Hauser & Wirth, Somerset
Open Now
3 October 2020–10 January 2021 Nicole Eisenman Where I Was, It Shall Be Hauser & WirthSomerset
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, (SELF) PORTRAITS at Parkett, Zurich Exhibition Space
Closed
22 February–30 September 2020 Group Exhibition (SELF) PORTRAITS ParkettZurich Exhibition Space
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, A Time Capsule: Works made by women for Parkett 1984–2017 at Parkett, Zurich Exhibition Space
Closed
8 June–21 July 2018 Group Exhibition A Time Capsule: Works made by women for Parkett 1984–2017 ParkettZurich Exhibition Space

Nicole Eisenman Represented By

Hauser & Wirth contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles, Somerset, Gstaad, St. Moritz

Nicole Eisenman In Ocula Magazine

Hito Steyerl and Nan Goldin Join Art Professionals Supporting Bernie Sanders Ocula News Hito Steyerl and Nan Goldin Join Art Professionals Supporting Bernie Sanders Tokyo, 25 February 2020

With Trump threatening to defund the arts, Sanders promises 'I will be an arts president.'

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Nicole Eisenman In Related Press

For Nicole Eisenman, Historical Memory is a Blunt Instrument Related Press For Nicole Eisenman, Historical Memory is a Blunt Instrument 28 April 2020, Shiv Kotecha

The artist presents a range of paintings and sculptures at The Contemporary Austin that problematize grand historical narratives.

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Lismore Castle serves up a rich palimpsest of themes for new show Related Press Lismore Castle serves up a rich palimpsest of themes for new show 5 April 2019, The Art Newspaper

Palimpsest —a manuscript or document where the original writing has been erased and written over but which still bears the traces of what was there before—is the title of the main show at Lismore Arts. It is an appropriately multilayered theme for a show housed in Lismore castle, the Irish home of the Dukes of Devonshire, which...

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The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World Related Press The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World 16 March 2015, Frieze

Featuring multiple works by 17 artists in different media – from soap and wax to ink and synthetic polymer, and good old fashioned oil on canvas – The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, curated by Laura Hoptman, staked its premise not upon the varied matter of materials, but the fungibility of temporal allusion. Purporting...

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