Gimpel Fils is delighted to announce an exhibition of sculpture, drawings and prints by the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002). The exhibition will be opened by Niki’s granddaughter, Bloum Cardenas.
De Saint Phalle was a rebellious, provocative artist whose work engaged with femininity, mythology, violence, personal anxiety and international political conflict. Although she did not undertake formal art-school training, from the mid-1950s she was part of the Parisian avant-garde and came to prominence alongside Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely. Throughout her career she pursued a passionate and relentless assault against the constraints of conventional society, be they political, sexual, or aesthetic.
From the early 1960s de Saint Phalle used assemblage and collage as a means of addressing the paradoxes of modern womanhood, often utilizing violence and grotesque humour. In works such as Chateau de Gilles de Rais, she questioned the authority of the Church by juxtaposing kitsch objects such as dolls and plastic aeroplanes with Christian icons in a chaotic altarpiece. Obsessions and fears of childhood, emotional battles, and violence also permeate her 1973 film Daddy. The film merges autobiography with fantasy in a psychological investigation into the relationship between father and daughter.
By the mid-1960s anger and frustration at patriarchal dominance gave way to matriarchal visions of productive power. The Nanas, boldly coloured rotund female figures, can be regarded as positive manifestations of motherhood and fertility. Taking the Venus of Willendorf as a model for female creativity, the image of woman becomes one of power, joyously expressed through richly coloured patterned surfaces and voluptuous forms of female flesh. The skipping Nanas, pregnant Nanas, and the Nana riding a dolphin included in this exhibition are evidence of the artist’s belief that all women are goddesses.