The Galerie Mitterrand in Paris bills its new show as an echo of the "Niki de __TexteRechercheEnGrasSaintTexteRechercheEnGras__ __TexteRechercheEnGrasPhalleTexteRechercheEnGras__ in the 1960's" exhibition at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas.
Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002), Nana Machine, 1976, painted polyester, iron base, electric motor by Jean Tinguely (1925-1991), 44 x 15 x 15 cm/17.32 x 5.90 x 5.90 in.
© Niki Charitable Art Foundation, Courtesy Galerie Mitterrand Photo: A. Mole
The exhibition features 17 lithographs—from the Nana Power portfolio (1970)—two large Nana sculptures in the round and a small Nana Machine designed with Jean Tinguely from the collection. The gallery’s joyful, pared-down show features a color scheme that would have met with Saint Phalle’s approval. Standing over two meters, or nearly seven feet, tall, the French-American artist’s Nana statues attest to her obsessive work on the female image. Her moving ogresses and goddesses in psychedelic colors recalling pop culture have become iconic. Here, Nana Boa (1983) has a boa-snake wrapped around her body—a symbol of her father’s sexual abuse—while Le Péril Jaune (The Yellow Peril) from 1968 plays with a ball on the beach. "The peril is the one she and her sisters represent... for the established order," says the gallery’s booklet.
Saint Phalle’s silkscreen prints on Velin d’Arches paper with English sentences in her applied, roundish, recognizable handwriting also attracted attention. They attest to her surrealist universe populated by her obsessions but also to her relationship and break-up with Tinguely: "My love, what shall I do now that you’ve left me?" and "What shall I do if you die?... I will buy a beautiful black dress and mourn over you… I will cry for many months… And then I will build a fantastic monument for your tomb… And then I will forget you." Visitors step into her private world through a thought translating the ambivalence of an artist caught between committed feminism and the torments of one who suffers from heartbreak.