The Pleasures, Politics, and Proto-Feminisms of Pop Art


Niki de Saint-Phalle: Kennedy-Khrushchev, 1962. © 2012 Niki Charitable Art Foundation.

Interview by Michael Dooley

In 1963, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique drew attention to the stifling state of American womanhood, and Roy Lichtenstein painted what might be considered a visual analogue: “Drowning Girl,” who’d rather be engulfed by tidal waves than call Brad for help. It was also the year Andy Warhol began his grungy, frightening Race Riot silkscreens, as civil rights protests grew. And James Rosenquist was working his way up to “F-111”, his big, bold anti-war statement of 1965, as Vietnam came into public focus. And a good many other Pop Artists around the globe were also picturing social concerns and changes on the horizon.

Last month, the College Art Association held its 100th annual conference in Los Angeles, with “Pop and Politics” among the program highlights. Each of the eight speakers revisited that art movement of a half-century ago, and provided unique new perspectives on the theme.

The sessions were organized by Allison Unruh and Kalliopi Minioudaki, both Ph.Ds and independent art historians. Here’s the first half of my two-part interview with them. And here’s a link to my first CAA100 column, which includes my talk with Anthony E. Grudin, “Pop and Politics” presenter and Warhol specialist.

Kalliopi Minioudaki and Allison Unruh in front of an Andy Warhol piece at the L.A. County Museum of Art.

Michael Dooley: What inspired you to put together “Pop and Politics”?

Allison Unruh: Kalliopi and I have been friends for years, and we’ve been looking for opportunities to collaborate. Chairing a panel at CAA was a perfect chance for us to promote discussion in a way that was relevant to both our interest in broadening the critical discourse of Pop Art, and to support a variety of scholars’ work that we think is really important.

Kalliopi Minioudaki: As we put it in our abstract, our main goal was to “promote discussion about previously overlooked intersections of Pop and politics in its varied international contexts, and to forge new ways of thinking about the political in the context of Pop.” There have been, of course, productive denouncements of Pop’s superficiality in light of significant previous investigations of some of Pop’s meaningful social and political dimensions, and there seems to be a recent consensus about the criticality of Pop’s often ambiguous — simultaneously celebratory and critical — embrace of pop culture. But we agreed that there remains a need to further investigate the various political aspects of Pop in greater depth.

AU: We’ve collaborated on another recent project; when I had the chance to edit a book of collected essays on Robert Indiana’s work I immediately thought of Kalliopi’s previous exploration of the political significance of the work of a variety of women Pop artists. And so I invited her to investigate those kinds of issues in Indiana’s work, which she did in a really incisive and original way.

KM: In a way, the topic of our panel grew naturally out of each of our scholarly works on mainstream and marginal Pop, which seemed to converge in our interest in its political dimensions. For instance, I have analyzed the diversity of proto-feminist politics in the realm of Pop in light of several women Pop artists whose work I studied for my doctoral dissertation, what I described as “Pop proto-feminisms” in the catalogue of Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists 1958-1968. And so I was, needless to say, particularly curious for new scholarship on the gender and sexual politics of Pop.

What aspects of the politics of Pop have been previously overlooked or neglected, and why?

AU: First, I would say that there isn’t a single kind of political dimension to Pop — rather, there’s a range of levels and types of engagement with the political that is really interesting in its variety. In turning to the immediacy of popular culture and contemporary experience, artists who worked within the realm of Pop Art found themselves invariably grappling with the political, whether in explicit or implicit ways.

One of the main problems with the politics of Pop has been the way it walks a fine line between celebration or complicity versus a critical stance toward mass culture. In my view, the work of an artist such as Robert Indiana — often called the most “American” of Pop artists — can in fact be both celebratory and critical of American culture.

KM: Moreover, to answer “why” Pop’s political aspects have been overlooked, it’s important to clarify which or whose Pop Art we are talking about, and which stage of its critical construction we are taking into consideration.

On the one hand, for instance, there are specific Pop art movements that have been always and unavoidably acknowledged as quite dissident, such as Equipo Crónica, which was critical of Franco’s regime. But isn’t this one of the reasons why it’s been marginalized from the discourse of Pop as something other than Pop?

If, on the other hand, we focus on the history of the critical construction of American Pop, then the shifts in its discourse reveal a variety of political aspects whose neglect and rediscovery can be more easily identified and perhaps historically and discursively explained.

What about the feminist politics of Pop?

KM: The neglect of the feminist politics of Pop is a different story, of course. It’s a symptom of the writing-out of women artists from Pop’s history, ensuing from the sexism of the 1960s art world and the masculinist principles of art history. But it’s also a surprising effect of the rise of feminist thinking in the arts.

A feminist aversion to Pop Art was justifiably developed by the feminist critique of the misogyny of Pop Art, pop culture and their pornographic iconography’s servicing of patriarchic culture in the 1970s. But feminist thinking on Pop Art and culture left no viable subversive position for women artists vis-à-vis popular culture other than that of abstinence or critique, which made feminist Pop an oxymoron.

If I may, I’d like to speak about my experience of the reception of Seductive Subversion, even of the paper I delivered at CAA. What’s perhaps most difficult still to accept, given the recent acknowledgment of feminist interventions in Pop, is the — often sexual — politics of affirmative, pleasurable dialogues with pop culture derived from what I see as a strategic use of pop culture, from an active rather than passive fan’s position, for instance.

In the case of feminist Pop politics, this is particularly resonant with women artists such as Axell and Pauline Boty. As desiring consumers or fans, they affectively used the vocabulary of popular culture — female stars, the pin-up, consumer objects such as cars, etc. — to speak for issues that were radical for women in the early 1960s, issues such as female sexuality, defending women’s right to erotic desire and pleasure, or even critiquing the sexism of visual culture without, however, relinquishing the pleasures of pop culture’s consumption or pleasure itself.

In part three, Allison and Kalliopi discuss what Pop has to do with today’s politics.

— Michael Dooley, Imprint


Kunst überwindet Barrieren


Volkshochschule und Friedehorst arbeiten zusammen: Skulpturen-Workshop für Behinderte und Nichtbehinderte

“Was können die Behinderten vergleichbar zu den Nicht-Behinderten leisten? Wo gibt es Schnittstellen?” Diese Fragen leiteten Ute Pahlow von der Volkshochschule in Bremen-Nord, als sie einem Angebot der Stiftung “Friedehorst” zustimmte. Es ging dabei darum, gemeinsam Kurse für behinderte und nichtbehinderte Menschen zu organisieren.

Bremen-Nord. Den Anstoß für eine solche Zusammenarbeit gab die Leiterin im Fachbereich Pädagogik in Friedehorst, Barbara Lohse-Meyer. Sie schlug einen Nana-Skulpturen-Workshop vor. Diese Anregung nahm Ute Pahlow gerne auf. In einem solchen Workshop gehe es weniger um zielorientiertes Lernen als vielmehr um freies künstlerisches Schaffen, sagte sie.

Die rundlichen und farbenfrohen Nanas der französisch-schweizerischen Künstlerin Niki des Saint Phalle üben einen optischen und haptischen Reiz aus. Sie können behinderte wie nichtbehinderte Menschen zu einer plastischen und schöpferischen Auseinandersetzung anregen. Indem beide Lerngruppen an der gleichen Aufgabenstellung arbeiteten, würde eine UN-Konvention ganz natürlich umgesetzt, wonach Behinderte am normalen gesellschaftlichen Leben beteiligt werden sollten, meinte Ute Pahlow. Hier finde ein “Austausch in Richtung Normalität” statt.

Teilnehmer zeigen Ausdauer

Der Kursus im Freizeittreff Friedehorst erstreckte sich über vier Termine. An jedem Sonnabend kamen in der Zeit zwischen 11 und 17 Uhr sechs behinderte und zwei nichtbehinderte Menschen zusammen, fünf Frauen und drei Männer. Die Leitung des Workshops übernahm Ute Osterloh, eine erfahrene Erzieherin, die sich schon seit 14 Jahren im Freizeitbereich engagiert.

Zu Beginn erzählte Ute Osterloh den Teilnehmern von der Bildhauerin Niki des Saint Phalle und ihren üppigen, quietschbunt bemalten Frauengestalten, die beispielsweise am Strawinski-Brunnen in Paris nahe dem Centre Pompidou oder an der Skulpturenmeile am Leibniz-Ufer in Hannover aufgestellt sind. Sie zeigte den Teilnehmern Fotos und ermunterte sie, selbst solche raumgreifenden Figuren zu zeichnen, um sie anschließend nach eigenen Vorstellungen farbig auszumalen.

Diese Zeichnungen zeigten vielgestaltige Ausformungen von Nana-Figuren. Sie dienten anschließend jedem Kursteilnehmer als Vorlage für die mannsgroße Figur, die er selbst erstellen sollte. Zunächst bastelte jeder ein Holzgestell, um ausgestreckte Arme oder angehobene Beine darzustellen. “Da leisteten die Teilnehmer richtiggehend Handarbeit”, erzählte Ute Osterloh. “Es wurde gesägt, geschraubt und gebohrt.”

Standfestigkeit erhielt das Lattengerüst durch einen Betonsockel, den die Teilnehmer in Farbeimern gegossen hatten. Um das Grundgerüst formten die Künstler dann Kaninchendraht, der schon die Proportionen sichtbar werden ließ. “Alles schön rund!” Die Drahtform wurde dann mit Zeitungspapier und “viel, viel Kleister” bedeckt und mit weißer Abtönfarbe angestrichen. Zum Schluss erhielt jede der acht Figuren ein Farbkostüm aus Acrylfarben, blau, grün, rot und gelb.

Die Kursleiterin zeigte sich erstaunt, dass besonders die behinderten Teilnehmer so lange durchgehalten haben. “Die Ausdauer, die sie aufgebracht haben, ist irre!” Sich über sechs Stunden zu konzentrieren, sei für diese Menschen eine große Energieleistung, stellte sie bewundernd fest. Natürlich wurden zwischendurch auch Pausen eingelegt, es gab Pizza und Tee. Aber wie sich jeder Besucher überzeugen konnte, waren die Künstler mit viel Freude bei der Sache. Sie jauchzten und lachten, erzählten und pfiffen sogar bei der Arbeit. Antonio und Jessica hockten und lagen mit dem Farbpinsel in der Hand auf dem Boden. Ayse bemalte ihre Nana vom Rollstuhl aus.

Zum Abschluss erhielten all die rundlichen Damen aus Holz, Draht und Pappmaché im farbenfrohen Gewand einen Anstrich aus Kunstharz, damit sie auch draußen aufgestellt werden können. Arnd (23) schenkt seine Figur dem “Papa” und Uschi (66) übergibt ihre Nana dem Haus 1 im Friedehorst. Wenn in jüngster Vergangenheit so viel über “Inklusion” diskutiert wurde, hier wurde sie praktisch verwirklicht.

— Peter Otto, Weser-Kurier Online


Beaubourg poursuit sa tournée


Après une inauguration en grande pompe à Chaumont, le Centre Pompidou mobile entame sa deuxième escale à Cambrai.

À gauche, la rue d’Alger. À droite, la rue de Nice. Des promesses de Méditerranée qui, sous les ciels bas du Nord, ont presque des airs de pied de nez. Avaient, plutôt : sur la place de la République, à Cambrai, les tentes bleues, oranges et rouges du Pompidou mobile viennent désormais dynamiter le gris et le blanc laiteux. Le tout premier musée nomade vient de s’installer pour trois mois, entre les façades art déco du Crédit agricole et de la chambre de commerce.

“Nous sommes désormais certains que notre structure est bel et bien itinérante, ça marche !” sourit Loïc Julienne, architecte avec Patrick Bouchain du projet. Il y a un mois encore, le musée mobile était à Chaumont, dans la Haute-Marne, où le président de la République est venu l’inaugurer le 13 octobre 2011. Trois chapiteaux, combinables les uns aux autres ; de la toile de cirque au-dessus, de la toile armée en dessous, soutenues par des armatures métalliques : le tout doit pouvoir être monté et remonté, accrochage des oeuvres compris, en quelque quatre semaines.


Pour sa première étape, le Pompidou mobile avait été installé sur un ancien terrain militaire. À Cambrai, il est accolé à l’hôtel de ville : on y accède par l’entrée d’honneur, celle des grands jours et des mariages. Dans trois mois, il migrera vers le port de Boulogne-sur-Mer. À son bord : Picasso, Kupka, Dubuffet, Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle et d’autres : 15 joyaux de Beaubourg. “Il a été difficile de choisir les oeuvres. Il a été plus difficile encore de devoir expliquer qu’elles ne pourraient pas être prêtées pendant un an”, raconte Emma Lavigne, conservatrice pour l’art contemporain au Centre Pompidou.

Cette première exposition (elle changera après l’étape de Boulogne, lorsque le musée partira vers le sud) est consacrée à la couleur. “Exposition”, le terme n’est d’ailleurs pas le bienvenu. “Il s’agit plutôt d’un accrochage, comme nous en organisons régulièrement à Beaubourg, d’un parcours dans les collections”, souligne Emma Lavigne. La couleur, donc, qui, chez les très grands, manifeste à la fois l’unité d’une recherche qui parcourt le XXe siècle et l’extrême singularité de chaque oeuvre. L’orange presque irréel du monochrome de Klein répond à L’hommage au carré de Josef Albers, aux Deux Vols d’oiseaux d’Alexander Calder (de très légers courants d’air, impensables au musée, rendent dans la tente le mobile à sa première vocation), aux Grands Plongeurs noirs de Fernand Léger ; L’aveugle dans la prairie de Niki de Saint Phalle contemple la mélancolie de La femme en bleu de Picasso.


Quatorze ou quinze oeuvres, pas plus. Pour des raisons pratiques bien sûr, mais pas que. “Je suis frappé, explique Alain Seban, président du Centre Pompidou et inventeur du Beaubourg itinérant, de voir comment dans les musées les visiteurs courent d’une pièce à l’autre. L’idée est ici de faire comprendre comment, si on donne du temps aux oeuvres, elles se mettent à nous parler.” Difficile en effet, dans cet espace restreint, de ne pas laisser le cinéma de couleur d’Olafur Eliasson répondre au Rythme de Sonia Delaunay. Difficile de ne pas écouter L’Estaque de Braque parler à la Double Métamorphose de Yaacov Agam. Difficile de ne pas s’arrêter : parce qu’on voit peu, on voit mieux. D’autant que, contraintes de conservation obligent, les toiles sont éclairées de l’intérieur des caissons qui les protègent : pas de reflet qui vienne perturber la vue.

Le projet n’est pas de faire venir l’institution dans des “déserts culturels”. Le Nord-Pas-de-Calais n’a d’ailleurs rien de tel : la région, malgré les clichés qui lui collent à la peau, est la plus riche en musées de l’Hexagone après l’Ile-de-France. La Piscine de Roubaix travaille avec Orsay, Arras noue un partenariat avec Versailles, Roubaix et Tourcoing travaillent à la préfiguration d’une antenne de l’Institut du monde arabe… Rien moins que le vide, donc. Il s’agissait, plutôt, de faire revivre un appétit culturel et de casser les inhibitions. Pour cela, explique Alain Seban, il fallait un événement “festif, joyeux, populaire”. À Cambrai, lorsque les tentes ont commencé d’être montées, les gens croyaient dur comme fer à l’arrivée d’un cirque…

Et la démarche semble fonctionner. À Chaumont, le Pompidou mobile a reçu 35 000 visiteurs, quand la ville n’en compte que 23 000. À Cambrai, les créneaux des visites scolaires sont déjà pleins. Çà et là, au long du parcours, des références au Pompidou de Paris ont été glissées pour que le public, à l’avenir, s’y sente chez lui. Pour être sans étiquette, le geste n’en est pas moins politique — au sens le plus noble du terme.

— Marion Cocquet, Le Point

Image: Francis Picabia, “l’Arbre rouge (Grimaldi après la pluie)”, vers 1912 ; Pablo Picasso, “Femme en bleu”, 1944 ; Frantisek Kupka, “La Gamme jaune” (détail), 1907. © Adagp/Succession Pablo Picasso, 2011/Adagp, 2011 / Montage Le


Niki de Saint Phalle: „Spiel mit mir“


Ihre Kunst wirkt herrlich kindlich und harmonisch. Man kann sagen: Niki de Saint Phalle brachte ihre Träume aufs Papier. Aber auch wenn die bunten Werke Fröhlichkeit ausstrahlen, ihre künstlerische Karriere begann keinesfalls unbeschwert.

Niki de Saint Phalle wurde 1930 in der Nähe von Paris geboren und starb 2002 in San Diego. Sie zählte zweifelsohne zu den bedeutendsten Künstlerinnen des 20. Jahrhundert. Der Grund für ihr künstlerisches Schaffen war aber leider kein schöner.

Mit 23 Jahren erlitt de Saint Phalle einen schweren Nervenzusammenbruch. Im Zuge ihrer therapeutischen Behandlung wurde ihr die Malerei immer wichtiger. Fortan nutzte sie ihre Kreativität als Ventil, um schreckliche Erlebnisse besser verarbeiten zu können.

Die Kunst war für sie also so etwas wie ein persönlicher Befreiungsschlag — und das sieht man ihren Werken auch an. Niki de Saint Phalle spielte mit Farben und bizarren Formen ihr ganz eigenes fantastisches Spiel. Ihre selbsterschaffenen Welten spiegeln stets ihre innerste Persönlichkeit wieder, die auf diese Weise für den Betrachter viel greifbarer wird.

Noch bis zum 3. Juni 2012 werden im LVR Max-Ernst-Museum zahlreiche Werke von Niki de Saint Phalle zu bewundern sein. Die Ausstellung bietet dem Besucher einen Überblick auf eine Schaffenszeit von rund 50 Jahren. „Spiel mit mir“ zeigt Gemälde, Assemblagen, Schießbilder, Plastiken, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphiken und Modelle der gegnadeten Künstlerin.

bis zum 3. Juni 2012

5 Euro; ermäßigt 3 Euro

Comesstraße 42/ Max-Ernst-Allee 1
50321 Brühl

Weitere Informationen unter:

Image: Klicker /


Large survey exhibition of multifaceted artist Niki de Saint Phalle at the Max-Ernst-Museum


BRUEHL — The Max-Ernst-Museum is showing the wide-ranging oeuvre of the multifaceted artist Niki de Saint Phalle, undoubtedly one of the most important artists of the 20th century, in a large survey exhibition. Through her paintings, assemblages, shooting paintings (tirs), sculptures, and installations, this artist created a unique cosmos which established her international reputation.

Niki de Saint Phalle, born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1930 and died in San Diego, California, in 2002, had a defining influence on the art of her day, feminine features of which she celebrated and shaped. Like no one before her, she found a valid form for the elemental force of femininity, particularly in her Nanas.

The exhibition at the Max-Ernst-Museum provides an extensive overview of her oeuvre, from the early paintings to the late sculptures. “Play With Me,” the title both of the exhibition and of one of her first paintings, is also directed at the viewer. It is an appeal to the individual’s creativity, an invitation to make an attempt and participate in the artist’s unbridled joie de vivre. That joy was evident in all the phases of her creative life. Her oeuvre unites her interest in the originality of life and her own experiences. Niki de Saint Phalle cannot really be categorised, nor was she shy of contradictoriness. Whether she engrossed herself in sources like the tarot or Indian culture, or drew on subjective experiences, such as her childhood memories, everything flowed directly into her art and involved a broad creative spectrum. Painting, drawing and printing, the colossal but also miniature sculptures, reliefs, gardens, and also books, letters and written records, up to and including films form a unique cosmos – and the essence of her creative work.

The exhibition of more than 150 works, curated by Guido Magnaguagno, former director of the Tinguely Museum in Basel, embraces the sculptures on loan from the Niki Charitable Art Foundation in California and Paris, the Sprengel Museum in Hanover, and the Musée d’art moderne in Nice, to all of which Niki de Saint Phalle made generous donations of her works. The show also features works from numerous private and public lenders. It has been complemented, moreover, by quintessential works by Jean Tinguely, her partner of many years, and paintings by her first teacher, the still largely unknown Hugh Weiss. The presentation also involves the artist’s films, which illustrate her dream worlds and her engagement with the patriarchy, and which are frequently dealt with quite separately from her other work.

Art Daily

Image: A woman looks at the artwork “Sphinx” by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) at the Max-Ernst-Museum in Bruehl, Germany. The artwork is presented in a retrospective entitled “Niki de Saint Phalle: Spiel mit mir” (Niki de Saint Phalle: Play With Me), which opens to the public from 15 January to 3 June. (EPA/OLIVER BERG)


Pacific Standard Time Performance Art Festival Preview


LOS ANGELES — Is that performance art? Not an uncommon question in Los Angeles, where you might see a guy in a mud-caked bodysuit marching down Wilshire, a fleet of pink Range Rovers hauling ass through West Hollywood or a frazzled cat lady walking her pets through a corporate plaza. You look twice and wonder: Did they do that on purpose? Am I supposed to notice? So is that art?

It’s therefore fitting that the organizers behind Pacific Standard Time continue to commemorate the postwar art of the Southland by turning to the work that was done outside the studio. It’s called the Performance and Public Art Festival (January 19-29) — 11 days and more than 30 performances, including experimental music and theater, social and political protest, sculpture and installation, and old-fashioned spectacle. A bunch of them are contemporary re-enactments of works first performed by seminal California artists more than 40 years ago.

We’ve profiled five works that push the limits of performance art.

1. Best hike ever

When Santa Monica’s 18th Street Arts Center asked Lita Albuquerque to restage her 1980 work Spine of the Earth, she didn’t think the process would become a work all its own. The first time around, Albuquerque and a team of assistants were working in the El Mirage dry lake bed, using blood-red powdered pigment to create interlocking geometric shapes against the stark flats of the Mojave Desert. Unable to re-create the work outside the city, Albuquerque moved to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, home to a dramatic panoramic view. But when she learned the pigment would stain the steps of a beloved running trail, she replaced painting with something bigger: 500 volunteers in robes, unfurling across the landscape, not unlike a paintbrush in the desert.

What was once a desert pilgrimage has become an intervention into the humdrum of the everyday. Because it’s held in a public park, there’ll be nothing to stop a jogger from weaving through the red-robed procession. And the best view of the skydiver who kicks off the performance — a stand-in for the aerial perspective that’s key to understanding the original work — might be from a car on the Santa Monica Freeway.

And that’s cool with Albuquerque. “If the original was about utilizing the Earth as a blank canvas,” she says, “then this is about the movement of people in this extraordinary city.” Lita Albuquerque’s Spine of the Earth 2012, January 22, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, 6300 Hetzler Road, Culver City.

2. America’s most-watched performance art

The similarities between performance art and sports aren’t lost on the Pomona College football team. Football games are elaborate stews of choreographed routine that are meaningless without an audience. So it didn’t surprise head coach Roger Caron when two dozen players volunteered to take part in John White’s Preparation F.

“This isn’t a Division I school, where kids are here just to play football,” Caron says. “For them, it’s a part of their day-to-day lives as mild-mannered college students.”

First performed in a campus ballroom in 1971, this new performance will take place in the gym. Audiences will watch from the bleachers as the team stretches and scrimmages and, after a shamanistic intervention from an audience member, changes back into street clothes and walks offstage. By moving a football practice onto a stage, White has moved the game out of the arena of entertainment and under the critical microscope of art. It will ask the question: Why does society condone violence if it’s committed while in uniform?

White’s performance precedes Judy Chicago’s A Butterfly for Pomona, a pyrotechnic display inspired by her fireworks performances of the 1970s, Atmospheres, to be held on the football field. Curator Rebecca McGrew says the pairing is coincidental but wrought with dramatic irony: taking the team off the field before creating the illusion of blowing it up. John White’s Preparation F and Judy Chicago’s A Butterfly for Pomona, January 21, Pomona College, Memorial Gymnasium, 333 N. College Avenue, Claremont.

3. Painting with a 12-gauge

In the early 1960s, L.A. was taking the piss out of action painting, the solitary practice of splattering paint all over a canvas. Behind a beatnik hangout on the Sunset Strip, the glamorous French émigré Niki de Saint Phalle hung bladders of paint and King Kong masks on a wooden canvas and shot it up with pals like John Cage and Jane Fonda. She called these communal paintings tirs — French for “gunshot.”

Meanwhile, in a studio in Pasadena, Richard Jackson was emptying buckets of paint and canvases into a washing machine. He dreamed of painting with a Cessna 150 for a brush.

Today staged violence is no cakewalk. For safety reasons, the re-enactment of Saint Phalle’s tirs will be invitation-only, held at an undisclosed outdoor shooting range in the foothills. “I’m open to reinterpretation,” says curator Yael Lipschutz, “but to do this with stuntmen or fake guns seems silly.”

And Armory Center curators had to promise Pasadena officials they’d keep spectators hundreds of feet away when Jackson flies and crashes a 15-foot model airplane, loaded with paint, into an enormous concrete wall in Arroyo Seco’s Brookside Park. “From very early in his career,” says curator Irene Tsatsos, “Richard’s been pushing the idea of how a painting can be made.” His brand of deliriousness might be up to code, but it’s still your best bet for catching a whiff of neo-dada funk. Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tirs: Reloaded, January 22, invitation only. Richard Jackson’s Accidents in Abstract Painting, January 22, Brookside Park, 360 N. Arroyo Boulevard, Pasadena.

4. Feminism via Twitter

To hear Suzanne Lacy talk about it, staging Three Weeks in May — her 1977 attempt to tackle issues of sexual violence in L.A. with visual art — was like running a grassroots political campaign. Small groups got together to discuss what couldn’t be said in public. Demonstrations and community organizing raised awareness.

For her reconceptualization of the project, now called Three Weeks in January, Lacy, inspired by the Obama campaign, has added another tool: social media. Like the original work, she is hosting demonstrations, classes and public forums around the city and stenciling the word rape on locations reported to LAPD on a map outside its downtown headquarters. But Lacy also is facilitating online forums and updating the map with data from Twitter.

“Over 30 years later, we can no longer say that rape is unspoken, nor that services and policies do not exist,” Lacy says. “But in terms of conversation and awareness, can something like a Twitter feed really compare to going door-to-door, or occupying public space?” Suzanne Lacy’s Three Weeks in January, January 12-February 1. Candlelight vigil January 27, 7 p.m., Los Angeles Police Department, 100 W. First Street, downtown.

5. Musical hotel fun house

On the final night of the festival, experimental music collective Society for the Activation of Social Space Through Art and Soundcalls (SASSAS) will create a museum called the Welcome Inn Time Machine. The rooms of a homely motel in Eagle Rock will be transformed into what SASSAS curator Cindy Bernard calls “galaxies of work” — spaces that visually and sonically evoke the landmark music of the PST era. You might catch an all-star fusion combo ripping up a late-’50s Ornette Coleman musical score. Wander into another room to subject yourself to the laborious detuning and screeching of a violin, like a performance from conceptual artist Bruce Nauman in 1969. Or call a number to hear Robert Wilhite, locked in a room on the other side of the motel, performing a telephone concert written in 1975.

PST’s festival celebrates 40 years of art vanishing without a trace, and what better way to capture that than in an ephemeral hotel fun house? As Bernard notes, “There’s all kinds of one-night things that happen in hotels all the time.” SASSAS’s Welcome Inn Time Machine, January 29, Welcome Inn, 1840 Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock.

For more events and information, visit

— Sam Bloch, LA Weekly

Image: The Pomona College football team scrimmaged in a campus ballroom for artist John White’s 1971 performance Preparation F, being re-created this month.


Gallery of Modern Art’s ‘Unprecedented’ Niki de Saint Phalle Haul to Entertain Glasgow


GLASGOW — An “unprecedented” donation has allowed the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art to receive 15 works by larger-than-life French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, complementing four of her existing sculptures and installations in the most significant bequest of modern art ever given to the city’s collection.

A print, wallpaper, rare archive material and sculptures in Saint Phalle’s typically colourful style are among the works arriving following a deal between the Contemporary Art Society and Eric and Jean Cass. They are expected to form an exhibition at the end of 2013.

Blessed with an incredible imagination, Saint Phalle is best known for her legacy of huge public sculptures, which include a winged Sun God on the campus of the University of California, L’Ange Protecteur in the hall of Zurich’s railway station, the monumental Cyclop in her native country and a black and white Golum creature whose hat-trick of blood red tongues act as play slides in Jerusalem.

She was interested in exploring the roles of women in society, frequently designing dolls and depictions of social change such as Miss Black Power at the Hakone Open Air Museum.

Her playfulness and revolutionary edge may have reflected her own background, having left a reputedly conservative family behind, embarked on a teenage modelling career which saw her on the cover of French Vogue, and departed for Massachusetts with her husband at the age of 18.

Easily the most flamboyant expression of Saint Phalle’s designs lies in her Tarot Garden in Tuscany, a riot of enormous sculptures where giant red lips, teetering black and white scales, towering mosaic emperors and trees of life adorn a hill based on the 22 trump cards of the Tarot. She spent 20 years creating it before her death in 2002.

“This extraordinary and generous donation is unprecedented for the gallery,” said Gordon Matheson, the Leader of Glasgow City Council.

“It’s hard to properly express just how grateful we are. These works are unique and beautiful and will captivate and thrill our visitors.”


Image 1: Niki de Saint Phalle, Monkey and Child, Photo © Douglas Atfield

Image 2: Niki de Saint Phalle, Chaise à Serpents (detail), Photo © Douglas Atfield


Couple Gift £2m Art Collection to Glasgow Gallery


A “unique and beautiful” £2 million collection of art is to be donated to Glasgow.

The 15 works by the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, the most significant bequest to the city’s galleries in recent years, are being donated to the city by Eric and Jean Cass, business people who have collected art for more than 30 years and are now dispersing their collection through the Contemporary Art Society.

The works, including sculptures, a print, wallpaper and rare archive material, will make it the largest collection of the French artist’s work held in the UK, and will be shown at an exhibition planned for the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in 2013.

The gift, presented by the Contemporary Art Society, adds to the two sculptures and two installations by Niki de Saint Phalle Glasgow already owns.

The collection of 15 works is understood to be worth around £2m.

Saint Phalle was born in 1930 in France and died in 2002.

She began producing her first paintings in 1950, and this led to plaster works and her “shooting paintings” — these pictures were made of plaster, with containers of paint beneath the surface, which would explode when she shot them.

In 1965, she created her first “Nana” — these large and brightly painted female figures were made originally in papier mâché and later in polyester.

She also designed stage sets and costumes and created movies, graphic work, chairs and a sculptural playground.

In 1988, Saint Phalle helped to design the iconic Stravinsky Fountain at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “This extraordinary and generous donation is unprecedented for GoMA so it’s hard to properly express just how grateful we are.

“The support from the Contemporary Art Society coupled with the incredible generosity of Eric and Jean Cass has allowed us to once again grow Glasgow’s collection of international modern art.

“These works are unique and beautiful and will captivate and thrill our visitors to GoMA when they are displayed in the autumn of 2013.”

Eric and Jean Cass, who live in England, were unavailable for comment. However, they have dedicated more than 35 years of their lives to collecting and supporting artists, building a collection of more than 300 sculptures, ceramics, drawings prints and paintings including work by such artists as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

Paul Hobson, the director of the Contemporary Art Society, said: “We are delighted to be able to make this gift to Glasgow Museums.

“Working with Eric and Jean Cass and learning more about the collection that they have so carefully developed over the years has been inspirational.

“The Contemporary Art Society has a unique view of public collections across the UK and this gift is one of many initiatives that we are championing in museums across the UK.

“We look forward to seeing the works displayed within the collection at the Gallery of Modern Art and hope that audiences will enjoy this exceptional group of works for years to come.”

Glasgow’s contemporary art scene has been highlighted in UK and international news in recent weeks, following the success of Martin Boyce, a Glasgow-based sculptor, in winning the Turner Prize, the most prestigious award in contemporary art.

Boyce scooped the £25,000 award, following in the footsteps of fellow Glasgow artists Susan Philipsz and Richard Wright.

Founded in 1910, the Contemporary Art Society exists to support and develop public collections of art in the UK.

It raises funds to purchase and commission new works for a network of public collections, which subscribe to it as Member Museums and Galleries, and by soliciting gifts of works to these collections for public benefit.

— Phil Miller, Arts Correspondent, Herald Scotland


Come One, Come All to the Pompidou’s Traveling Art Circus


PARIS — Half a century ago, fairground hucksters in Europe would whet the curiosity of provincial crowds with dead whales and giant squids, pickled in formaldehyde and carted from place to place aboard large trucks designed for the purpose. These days dead sea monsters are out. Art’s sacred monsters are making the rounds instead.

Chaumont-sur-Marne, a small town in eastern France, population 30,000, is the first stop of the new Pompidou Mobile, a travelling gallery of modern and contemporary art conceived by Alain Seban, the current director of the Pompidou Center in Paris.

One in two people in France has never visited a museum, according to Mr. Seban. So in 2007, he said during a recent interview, he decided to take his museum to the French.

The director chose the iconclastic architect Patrick Bouchain, a specialist in nomadic constructions, to execute his project. The result is three tents, shaped like origami birds, covering a total area of 650 square meters, or 7,000 square feet, that can be fitted together in a variety of configurations to adapt to the available space. Two tents hold the exhibition spaces and another the reception area.

The total cost of designing and building the project was €2.5 million, or $3.3 million, financed by the Pompidou Center, the Ministry of Culture and a group of four private-sector sponsors (Galeries Lafayette, GDF SUEZ, La Parisienne Insurance and the Total Foundation).

The curator Emma Lavigne was chosen by Mr. Seban to put together “La Couleur,” the Pompidou Mobile’s first show, which opened in Chaumont in mid-October and runs until Jan. 15. Inside the tents are displayed 14 masterpieces from the Paris museum’s permanent collection. The artists include modern masters — Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Léger, Alexander Calder and Niki de Saint Phalle — and a sprinkling of contemporary artists including Olafur Eliasson and Bruce Nauman.

Entrance to the museum is free — a rarity in France — and the €400,000 cost of each stage in the museum’s journey is being split equally among the local council and the four private sector sponsors. “The aim is not to compete with existing museums but to go and put ourselves in front of people who never go to museums,” Mr. Seban said. “We want to create a festive event, something popular and free, that everybody, I hope, will want to take part in.”

The exhibition area inside the tents is a sequence of spare, white uncluttered spaces, each dominated by a large display caisson. The caisson, a sort of giant safe, showcases the paintings through non-reflective security-glass windows. Sculptures and mobiles are distributed around the perimeter of the spaces, placed to create a dialogue between the sculptural and pictorial displays.

An audio guide gives a concise, jargon-free explanation of each work in a choice of languages while local actors have been hired and trained by the Pompidou as tour guides for group visits, reciting a specially written story-line enhanced with sound effects.

Chaumont’s actor-guides will in turn train a replacement team from Cambrai, where the museum will next set up camp on its tour of France, early next year. From Cambrai it heads to Boulogne-sur-Mer in May.

In sharp contrast to the minimalist interior, the outside is brightly colored in bold panes of red, orange and blue, reminiscent of a circus tent. Made in a tough double-ply canvas, with an insulating airspace between the two fabric layers, like double glazing, to ensure a controlled temperature inside the tents, it is designed to be put up using a system of masts, ropes and pulleys. Once erected, it is held up by counterweights formed of enormous water-filled balloons.

Putting more than a dozen major artworks, each worth in the millions of dollars, in a tent in the middle of nowhere might be thought to raise some security concerns. Still, Mr. Seban, while declining to go into details, said adequate precautions had been taken.

“The safety of the works has been very carefully studied and we have multiple security measures — physical, electronic and human — in place,” he said. “Our insurer, a specialist in artworks, has signed off on the overall system.”

Occupying the parade ground of an abandoned army barracks on the edge of town, the colorful tent brings a dash of energy to the drab surroundings of Chaumont, a post-industrial town once known for its glove-making industry.

“Fernand Léger wrote a very fine text on the function of painting and color in advertising, clothing and architecture,” Mr. Bouchain, the architect, said, drawing a link between his design and the show. “He worked with Corbusier and taught him to use color in architecture. For my part I think it’s good that 20th-century works are being shown in a way that renders homage, after a century, to the people who envisaged adding color to architecture.”

The architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers drew inspiration from Le Corbusier’s ideas in their groundbreaking 1972 design for the Pompidou Center, with its blue and green exposed ducts and red external stairway elements. The decision to endow the Pompidou Mobile with a bright fairground exterior was also a nod to its Paris parent and “a homage to Renzo Piano and Fernand Léger,” Mr. Bouchain said.

In planning the museum’s itinerary, the Pompidou invited mayors from all over France to put in bids. Chaumont was one of the first to respond, Mr. Seban said, and the fact that the nearest museum was 100 kilometers, or about 60 miles, away also played in its favor.

Still, the decision to start the ball rolling in Chaumont probably owed less to competitive tendering than to the fact that its mayor, Luc Chatel, is minister of education in the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“We approached the minister of education to get him involved in the project,” Mr. Bouchain said. “We wanted to get his approval to facilitate and give an impetus to the project’s work with schools.”

In Chaumont, the schools program has been fully booked for the museum’s three-month stay. Total attendance, meanwhile, has surpassed expectations, at an average 700 visitors a day and 2,000 on weekends.

With the Pompidou mobile journey on its way, Mr. Bouchain is now working on something very different — the next Monumenta installation at the Grand Palais. It will be a minimalist production, he said, with the artist Daniel Buren.

— Claudia Barbieri, The New York Times


Warhol Museum Displays Artists’ Works in Tarot Card Project


If, as scholars would have us believe, artists are the canaries in the coal mine of our culture, now comes an exhibit that pegs them as potential seers of the future.

The exhibit “Contemporary Magic: A Tarot Deck Art Project,” on display at the Andy Warhol Museum, features the minor and major arcana as reinterpreted by 78 artists, photographers, fashion designers and other creative types, many of whom are known the world over.

Organized by curator Stacy Engman of the National Arts Club, the exhibit is a varied display of 78 tarot cards, each created by a different artist in a wide range of media, including photography, painting and collage.

The Tarot Card deck first originated in Marseilles, France, in the 1400s. But only in the past century were the cards themselves given pictorial meaning. That changed with what has come to be known as the “Rider-Waite tarot deck,” which was commissioned by occult scholar Edward Waite (1857-1942) about 100 years ago.

“It was the first time in the history of the tarot that all of the suit cards were illustrated in the way that has now become familiar to many,” Engman says. “Prior to that, all of the suit cards — the wands, the coins, the cups, the swords — were depicted only by numbers.”

Engman says that, in relation to art history, the Rider-Waite deck probably is the most important modernist tarot deck because it’s the first deck that introduced pictorial equivalents to every single card. “Since then you see different kinds of tarot decks everywhere, and a lot of artists have done their own,” she says. “Salvador Dali did his own tarot card deck; Niki de Saint Phalle made sculptures of the tarot. This is the first deck in history that incorporates 78 interpretations by 78 different creative icons.”

For this project, each artist was matched with a card based on themes that recur in their work. For example, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld was given the King of Wands, and responded with a picture of himself sitting quite regally in an ultra-modern Lucite chair.

Fashion photographer Terry Richardson, assigned the Two of Wands, submitted an image of himself as a modern day hombre, wearing a Black Flag t-shirt, arms crossed, holding rather ominous looking pistols on each hand. With his tattooed forearms and menacing look, the picture easily could be an ad for the jeans he’s wearing or the cover of a men’s magazine.

And onetime Carnegie Mellon University art student-turned-art-world superstar John Currin turned in a masterful little figural composition of a laughing, party-going couple, in his inimitable style for the Ten of Cups.

Recognizing that with tarot, each combination of cards drawn “is like an art installation in front of you that always changes based on the cards drawn,” Engman began the project three years ago with the idea of combining art and tarot.

“It was a big project that I’ve worked on and researched for several years,” she says. “The artists’ interpretations were really inspired, and liberated the deck in a really amazing way. They’re the true magic in the project. It was a labor of love and wonderful surprises throughout.”

Every single one of the cards is unique and resonant.

“They’re all archetypes and notions of the heroic, transformation, and contemplation in some form,” Engman says. “Without being planned as such, as this project was an experiment as much as anything, you do see incredible archetypal themes that artists gravitated towards within each suit. Even without knowing what the others were doing, for example, the Cups suit has many beautiful aquatic themes, often that reference the sea, in new and diverse ways.”

Although the exhibit debuted in the fall at the National Arts Club in New York, this second presentation at the Andy Warhol Museum is a little different, having integrated Warhol’s personal tarot cards, and a film he shot in 1966 called “Velvet Underground Tarot Cards,” which never has before been exhibited publicly. It was just refurbished last year.

Locals likely will take delight in Yayoi Kusama’s “Queen of Cups,” which features a self-portrait of the reclusive artist who created it. Kusama is the creator of “Infinity Dots Mirrored Room” (1996), the now iconic permanent installation at that museum of the red-dotted mannequins and floor that seem to go on endlessly in a mirrored room.

These additions, plus Patrick McMullan’s card “The Hanged Man,” which features an upside down Andy Warhol, make the exhibit all the more relevant for Pittsburghers, not just in terms of contemporary art, but in relationship to Warhol and Pittsburgh as well.

“It was amazing seeing the project situated in a Warholian context at the museum,” Engman says. “Andy exemplified so much the intersections and cross-over of art and life, which this project is so much about, in addition to questions of contemporary archetypes and notions of the iconic in visual and conceptual themes.”

— Kurt Shaw, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Kurt Shaw is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review art critic.

Photo — Patrick McMullan’s “The Hanged Man” (left) and Karl Lagerfeld’s “King of Wands.” Andy Warhol Museum.