If there is an artist that vies with Peter Max for the title of 60’s icon, it has to be Niki de Saint Phalle. She took his color and graphic sense into a third dimension with her sculpture, added the mosaic and sinuous line of Gaudi – one of her big influences – and tossed in a dash of women’s lib to create her signature ‘nanas.’
The nanas were giant female figures, wonderfully painted; they were featured in her outdoor installations and the gardens that she created as homages to Gaudi. Saint Phalle was born in France to a French father and American mother. When the family moved to New York in the 30’s, she was sent to private school, which soon expelled her for painting all the fig leaves on their statuary with red paint. She modeled eventually, married, studied painting in Boston and eventually went back to Europe, settling finally in Paris.
Somewhere along the way, she divorced her husband and in 1971 married Jean Tinguely. She died ten years ago yesterday at the age of 72. The video below is a very good overview of her work, though the background music is ill-chosen.
Jean Tinguely, whose birthday it is today, was born in Switzerland in 1925 and died in 1991. His sculpture is in a Dadaist tradition and what he decided was absurd was the materialism of the modern world. He created strange and somewhat distorted movable objects that reflect conventional machinery – many of them actually produce something, but it is a pointless, silly something, like bread with jam.
A good sample of Tinguely’s work is shown in the video taken at the Tinguely Museum in Basel, but so much in one place produces a truly distracting cacophony – only at the very end, IMHO, when one piece is seen at length does his message of blind, meaningless manufacture come across. His work seems to belong to an earlier time – the 20’s say – but is nonetheless interesting.