At MoMA PS1 and Salon 94, the Franco-American artist has long been noted for his architecture that defies s and his public sculptures.
" I was lucky enough to discover art, "she said," because on the Psychologically, I had everything you need to become a terrorist. "
It was going to be either one for Niki de Saint Phalle , who made some of the happiest arts in postwar France, and also some of the most menacing . His colleagues in Paris in the 1960s provoked heckling from fill the galleries with industrial waste , or paint canvases with the nude models bodies - but none of them made it to Saint Phalle, who used live ammunition to shoot oil paintings and, by extension, the men of the cultural establishment. Even when his art got lighter later, there was always something underneath : a risk, a grundoubtedly, a feeling that everything could derail.
Freedom through violence, creation through destruction, pleasure through fear: these are the artistic antinomies of Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002), whose gun performances and larger-than-life sculpted women received more respect in Europe than in America. New York, where she lived as a child, never offered her a full-scale museum exhibit - or not until now, with the opening of " Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life , " at MoMA PS1. It is one of the most surprising shows of the season, with a strong emphasis on his later, monumental work in parks and other outdoor spaces: single-story structures, somewhere between thearchitecture and public art, where the caves are covered with mirrors and pink monsters. languages turn into slides. Image "The Sphinx ", circa 1984, in "Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life " at MoMA PS1. Credit ... Charlie Rubin for Hfrance.fr
This is a revisionist show, which is curious for the late one. By valuing subsequent public works and putting the 1960s in the shadows, PS1 commissioner Ruba Katrib and her colleague Josephine Graf offer a partial take on an artist many Americans still do not fully know. But "Structures for Life" brings a cannonade of color to Queens, and this is one of two opportunities to rediscover Saint Phalle in New York right now. In Manhattan, the gallery Salon 94 a moved into a Beaux-Arts mansion on 89th Street East which previously housed the National Academy of Design , and there you will find sculptures motorized vehicles of Saint Phalle made in collaboration with her second husband, the Swiss kinetic sculptor Jean Tinguely, and three of the totem sculptures of women whom she called Nanas.
These tall faceless figures, with spherical breasts, wide hips, and warm-colored patterns, can now look like benign 60s artifacts. But for Saint Phalle, the Nanas were ferocious things, threatening the patriarchy, with the potential to become what she saw deep inside herself: a terrorist, with the female article.
Catherine Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle was born in the wealthy Parisian suburbs to an American mother and a French aristocratic father; a few years later, the family moved to New York. Both were devout Catholics and both were monstrous parents. When she was 11, her father raped her - a trauma she revealed much later, in a 1994 illustrated book shown at PS1. “All men are rapists,” she wrote. "I understood that everything they had taught me was wrong." (Two of his siblings later committed suicide.) Image Saint Phalle with his sculpture "Clarice Again" in his front garden, outside of Paris, in 1981. Credit ... Michiko Matsumoto Image " Gwendolyn "(1966/1990) at Salon 94 on East 89th Street. Credit ... Charlie Rubin for Hfrance.fr Image Saint Phalle loading a rifle in front of "Homage à Facteur Cheval ”, a 1962 wall assembly. Credit ... Adelaide de Menil, via Niki Charitable Art Foundation
She was kicked out of Catholic and Brearley school, and while still a teenager she started working as a model, appearing on the covers of Life and Vogue. When she was 18, she married author Harry Mathews, and soon after was interned in a mental institution, where doctors first administered electroconvulsive therapy and then encouraged artistic creation. Once released, Saint Phalle moved to Spain, where the architecture of Antoni Gaudi - in particular its Parc Guell in Barcelo na, with its wavy porticoes and benches covered with mosaics - would decisively influence his subsequent public works.
During his first exhibition, in Paris in 1961, Saint Phalle ahung a blank canvas on the wall, picked up a gun, then let it rip. The bullets pierced plastic bags filled with paint under the canvas, which bleed to create a dripping abstraction. This and following 'Shoots' were performance art in the form of symbolic murder - gestural abstract painting, the artist as an expressive visionary, his father, of all fathers.
And of course, those were stunts. The act of shooting crucifixes or Kennedy effigies is quite weak in terms of subtlety. But they won her both fame and credibility, and she was invited to join a group of artists working with collage, industrial materials, and performance, known as New Realists . Many of these Parisians, including Tinguely, Daniel Spoerri, Jacques Villegle and Arman, remain stubbornly underestimated here, although their work is not that different from their American counterparts. (Robert Rauschenberg, Lee Bontecou, Noah Purifoy, and Bruce Conner may have been New Realists.) Image "Clarice Again" (1966-1967) at MoMA PS1, one of the sculptures totem poles of the Saint Phalle woman called Nanas. Credit .. Charlie Rubin for Hfrance.fr Image One of the Nanas de Saint Phalle descend on the dancers in "Éloge de la Folie", a 1966 ballet choreographed by Roland Petit. An excerpt is on display at Salon 94. Credit ... Charlie Rubin for Hfrance.fr
The PS1 exhibition quickly passes above the “Shoots” by Saint Phalle and skips the subsequent showy sculptures of brides and monsters entirely, to reach his other 1960s breakthrough: the Nanas, who transform his rage against the patriarchy into self-contained, strangely joyful prima donnas. She made these plump and often pregnant figures in plaster or polyester, and painted their surfaces with solid color stripes and black outlines. Often they had concentric circles, like targets, on the chest or stomach.
From certain angles, they are reminiscent of pinatas. Another, Stone Age Fertility Statues. And sometimes, really, they look like killers. Saint Phalle has often recognized the influence of "King Kong" on his art, and in a 1966 ballet (performed with Tinguely, and visible at Salon 94), a giant Nana wearing red pumps descended flies to crush the dancers. male.
"Nana " is a French slang term for a woman , something like "chick " or "large," Although it also evokes the fictional courtesan of Émile Zola Nana, painted by Édouard Manet at the end of the 19th century. They can be that highs as a building, or small as a clipboard. The Queen of the Nanas was " Hon ", which she made with Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt in 1966 : 75 feet long and lying on her back, with a door on her inside between her open legs. They built it for a show in what was then the coolest museum on the planet, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and some 70,000 Swedes patiently lined up to enter the exhibit, where adults could view paintings, children could take down a slide, and everyone could drink milk at a bar in one of the breasts .
If "Hon " has redesigned the Nana as a permeable, habitable figure, the project also foreshadows the public works that the PS1 puts forward. For a playground in Jerusalem in 1971, Saint Phalle designed a black and white golem, its undulating walls indebted to Gaudi, with three slides formed from its three giant tongues. (The parents were outraged; the kids loved it.) In 1983, she and Tinguely created the title Fontaine Stravinsky near the brand new Center Pompidou in Paris, where its squeaky machines spat water alongside its Nanas and colorful birds .
She spent decades on a garish Gesamtkunstwerk in Tuscany, called the Tarot Garden , where she and dozens of collaborators built massive occult structures, including a covered Empress mirror which also served as his home on site. A large part of the financing of the Jardin du Tarot came from the sale of perfumes; at PS1, his sales expertise receives Warholian honors. Image Pages from the US version of Saint Phalle's Book "AIDS, You Can 't Catch It Holding Hands", 1986-1987, on MoMA PS1. Credit ... Charlie Rubin for Hfrance.fr
Saint Phalle has always written alongside his art, and this show includes many hand-drawn pages for a book on AIDS and its prevention, published in English under the title" AIDS, You Can 't Catch It Holding Hands. "First written and illustrated in 1986, then adapted for French television, this open-hearted book features chick dancers proclaiming" I love condoms "and beautiful edicts to love and take caring for people with HIV and AIDS, long before many leaderspoliticians don't even recognize the syndrome.
Still, the PS1 show 's focus on public engagement and public building makes it seem a little too likable. This gives us the 'good Niki', with her unpolished, self-taught aesthetic, her community building projects and celebration of play, her AIDS advocacy, her faith journals. He stifles the "bad Niki", killer of Parisian good taste, who wanted art to be " also nice to see someone killed , or the atomic bomb. " And for a show concerned with commitments socito the artist, he walks rather cautiously on his support for the American civil rights movement . We get a 1968 dream frieze of Nanas of all colors, but not the big black Nanas of Saint Phalle, who now feel both daring and clumsy.
At Salon 94, on the other hand, the racialized Nana takes center stage The gallery has installed three large sculptures in a winter garden that echoes the design of its first solo museum show, called "Nana Power", at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1967. (" We have Black Power, why not Nana Power? "she said at the opening.)one of them is called "Black Dancer", balancing on one foot, wearing a miniskirt like a mushroom cap. Another, also on a stand and playing with a beach ball, is entitled "Le Peril Jaune" ("Yellow Peril"), from 1969; she has flowers on her breasts and flesh the color of a taxi. He is a heroic figure, but Saint Phalle's re-use of a racist trope for his title comes as a serious shock, in Vietnam's time and no less today.
It 's natural to be uncomfortable with these painted giants. They are over half a century old. But museums purged of uncomfortable things are also playgrounds of some sort, and Saint Phalle has rarely given the public full approval. version d of anything. It's nice to build a gathering place, but it was both a constructor and a destructor. She was a creator of structuresto live and a raider who shot to kill. Image A motorized The sculpture Nana, at Salon 94, was made with Saint Phalle's second husband, Jean Tinguely. Credit. .. Charlie Rubin for Hfrance.fr
Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life
Until September 6, MoMA PS 1, 25 Jackson Avenue, Queens; moma.org/ps1 . Book timed tickets.
Niki de Saint Phalle: Joy Revolution
Across April 24, Salon 94, 3 East 89th Street, Manhattan; 212-979-0001; salon94.com .