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Retrospective exhibition spanning 44 years of Niki de Saint Phalle’s work at Nohra Haime Gallery

October 6, 2011

Installation shot at Nohra Haime Gallery. C 2011 Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved. Photo: Laura Maloney.

NEW YORK, NY.- A major retrospective exhibition spanning 44 years by Niki de Saint Phalle is on view at Nohra Haime Gallery through October 29. The exhibition presents a comprehensive survey of the artist’s career, including key examples of her different phases from 1960 well into 2002.

Among the works featured are assemblage pieces of found objects including her acclaimed shooting target pieces from the early 1960s, the Skinnies (lamps) – linear flat sculptures from the 1980s, multiple flower vases and whimsical furniture with figurative forms from the 1980s and 1990s, sculptural figures brilliantly colored with mirrored mosaics, her all-powerful Nanas, as well as a selection of psychedelic works on paper.

Highlights of the exhibition include Tir Aux Ciseaux, 1961, an assemblage of found everyday objects embedded in plaster as a relief. The inventory of sharp violent objects incorporated in this work, including scissors, nails, and cracked pieces of glass, and the dripping dark red color reminiscent of blood, reveal the artist’s wounded soul and gloomy state of mind at the time. Another prominent piece is Chapelle ou Hommage à la Vie, 1974, most likely conceived as an architectural fantasy; it is an anthropomorphic sculpture in painted polyester and executed in her distinguished naïve, yet clever style. Les Trois Graces, 1994, a central focus of the exhibition, consists of three spirited, bright-coloured, voluptuous Nanas dancing in a circle; they represent the independent, joyful, creative and powerful mother figure.

This retrospective brings together the various facets of Saint Phalle’s oeuvre – from the aggresiveness and harshness of her early work to the more jaunty and balanced nature of her later work. Viewers are confronted with contradictions of past and present, love and hate, fantasy and reality, chaos and harmony, protest and liberation, and grief and celebration.

Saint Phalle’s art is a reflection of her dark, yet extravagant personal history. After having a nervous breakdown and receiving electric shocks in a psychiatric hospital in 1953, she began painting as a form of self-therapy to express her fear and rage. But as in fairy-tale ending, Saint Phalle countered her demons and embraced magic and color of life through art – the path she followed to do so is palpable in the exhibition.

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