New York • The PS1 celebrates Niki de Saint Phalle
Her artistic practice is a cross between performance, painting, sculpture and target shooting
In her recent production the male as such disappears, freeing the potentially infinite space of an imaginary emancipated feminine
If we wanted to summarize - in a very rough way - the main difference between the European avant-gardes of the first post-war period and those of the second, we should first talk about a different approach to realism: Dada denies it, Surrealism seeks to overcome it, but in any case, reality is coarse, unacceptable as such. In the 60s, nouveau realism had a less confrontational and more contradictory relationship with reality: criticizing and accepting it at the same time, it appropriated it to show its aporias and inconsistencies. “Poetic recycling of the real” and “collective singularity” are some of her paradoxical watchwords.
The association between Niki de Saint Phalle and nouveau realism is also contradictory and problematic: French and American, a woman in a world of men; a model, then an actress and finally an artist, Niki initially made a violent and at the same time poetic appropriation of the symbols of a repressive culture, which wanted her to be a wife and mother, the key point of her artistic practice, then, after digesting it, she reinterpreted reality in new and ancient forms at the same time.
If we want to divide her artistic path in two stages, we will see her in the first one holding a rifle (symbol par excellence of the modern patriarchal society) and shooting at paint cans placed on paintings and sculptures mostly depicting figures of power, such as Kennedy and Khrushchev. Niki, therefore, does not deny reality as such, but appropriates it, turns it against itself - with a practice that is at the crossroads between performance, painting, sculpture, target shooting - and eroticizes it in a disturbing and liberating way, turning the symbols of masculinity against masculinity itself. In the second phase, however, it is no longer these poetic forms of castration that make her the master - pardon me, mistress.
Woman in a man's world, model, actress and artist she turns reality against HERSELF and eroticizes it in a disturbing and liberating way
The male as such disappears, freeing the potentially infinite space of an imaginary emancipated woman, who feeds on the discoveries of the old and new avant-gardes, translates them into a very personal style and engages in every form of art, from painting to sculpture, from architecture to publishing. Curves, orifices, protuberances: as found in the Hon installation of 1966 - a large sculpture resembling a pregnant woman, into which it is possible to enter through the vulva - Niki di Saint Phalle’s art models and intensifies forms to create a space in which a wounded, free, disturbing, exuberant femininity expresses itself without compromise.
Niki de Saint Phalle
Structure for life
New York MoMA PS1
Curated by Ruba Katrib Josephine Graf