The Nasher Sculpture Center proudly unveils its recent acquisition, Sketch for a Fountain, a group of five sculptures by Nicole Eisenman. Conceived for the 2017 Münster Sculpture Projects in Münster, Germany, the work is an ambitious, contemporary reimagining of the timeless subject of fountain statuary.
Sketch for a Fountain was inspired by the long history of fountains, one of the oldest forms of public art. Eisenman’s figures—larger-than-life, of indeterminate gender, and almost cartoonishly fleshy—exemplify the appeal of her humorous and humane aesthetic. Lounging and dozing, they could be lingering in an arcadian reverie or sleeping off a bacchanal, their torpor disturbed only by the gentle sprinkles of water spewing from different parts of their bodies, which in places sprout elements that seem to be drawn to the dampness, such as mushrooms and slugs. Eisenman’s figures evoke associations with a range of art historical precedents, including Greco-Roman representations of hermaphrodites, Paul Cézanne’s Bathers, George Segal’s introspective figures, and the whimsical public sculptures of Tom Otterness.
Known initially for her work in painting, Eisenman made sculpture as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design and has recently begun to make a mark for herself in the medium. An important precedent for her Münster project was the 2013 Carnegie International, where, along with a selection of her paintings, she exhibited a group of sculptures in the museum’s sculpture court, alongside Greco-Roman sculptures from the permanent collection, and described her figures as “scruffy, bohemian great-great-grandchildren of those gods.” Working largely in plaster, with occasional items of assemblage, Eisenman has focused primarily on figures and heads.
Installed in and around the pond in Nasher Garden, Sketch for a Fountain expands the consideration of the figure and sculptural ensembles also on view there, such as Segal’s Rush Hour and Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Bronze Crowd. Three of the figures (those with water elements) were purchased through the Kaleta A. Doolin Acquisition Fund for Women Artists, while two sculptures (those without water elements) come to the Nasher as a promised gift from the Green Family Collection.