Visiting the Niki de Saint Phalle: Structure for Life exhibition was certainly an uplift! The day of my arrival was rainy, spring had not fully declared itself, but once inside, all was sunshine and life. This museum space had once been a New York City public elementary school (and a forbidding one at that, with its dark Romanesque stone). However, nothing could be more contradictory to the serious setting than Niki de Saint Phalle’s colorful, joy-filled sculptures.
Here we see in all their fecundity and abundance a full plethora of her iconic "Nana" figures springing into dance-like steps while clothed in signature Pucci patterns and Matissean color. Perhaps as creatures of the psychedelic age in which they were conceived, they become the artist's surrogate to enact an array of creative narratives.
Yes, Niki’s art has a serious side too. What she dealt with and overcame in life is an essential driving force in her story, and the issues that she confronted in her art, specifically and most notably the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, placed her among the most publicly influential activists of her era. Niki de Saint Phalle is an artist of the first rank, an important figure along the lines of Warhol, Haring, Chagall, and Léger (with whom her work shares its immediate graphic appeal and universality of theme).
This exhibition deals strongly with her public sculpture and architectural installation, so it is therefore especially delightful that these themes are illuminated through numerous works of all sizes, from jewelry to monumentally scaled. Our program is designed to help you understand de Saint Phalle as one of the key figures of the twentieth century, especially an era of rediscovery for amazing women artists. This two part mini series will portray her influences, her friends, and her impact, and attempt to unravel the complexities that were at the core of her colorful, engaging and communicative art.