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April 15, 2022

Acquisition: Nicole Eisenman

Nicole Eisenman, 'Beer Garden'

Nicole Eisenman
Beer Garden
, 2012–2017
etching, aquatint, and drypoint, printed chine collé on wove on Hahnemühle paper
image: 101.4 x 121.6 cm (39 15/16 x 47 7/8 in.)
sheet: 112.8 x 131.7 cm (44 7/16 x 51 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund

Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965) is best known as a painter who skillfully combines art history, queer politics, and popular culture into engaging, often fantastical figurative subjects. In 2011 Eisenman set her paints aside to delve into a year completely focused on printmaking, producing over 60 prints in woodcut, lithography, etching, aquatint, and monotype. The National Gallery's recent acquisition, Beer Garden (2012–2017)—at nearly 4 feet square—stands out as her most monumental print to date and took five years to complete. This is the first work by Eisenman in any medium to enter the collection.

In this work, the artist appears in a distorted self-portrait in a reflection at the bottom of the raised beer stein in the foreground—as both observer and participant among a host of revelers engaged in a range of social interaction and debauched behavior at this popular drinking spot in her Brooklyn neighborhood. The variously caricatured, abstracted, and contorted figures, and wanton atmosphere suggest sources extending from cartoons and comics to French and German late 19th- and early 20th-century depictions of café night life.

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