Saint Phalle normally wrote alongside her artwork earning, and this show consists of several hand-drawn pages for a e book on AIDS and its prevention, printed in English as “AIDS, You Just can’t Capture It Holding Fingers.” Very first penned and illustrated in 1986, afterwards tailored for French Television set, this openhearted ebook characteristics Nana-like dancers proclaiming “I appreciate condoms,” and wonderful edicts to enjoy and treatment for persons with H.I.V. and AIDS, prolonged just before a lot of political leaders even acknowledged the syndrome.
Nevertheless the PS1 show’s concentration on community engagement and public constructions does make her appear to be a bit as well congenial. It gives us the “good Niki,” with her unpolished, self-taught aesthetic, her communal design jobs and celebration of enjoy, her AIDS advocacy, her confessional diaries. It muffles the “bad Niki,” slayer of very good Parisian style, who wished art to be “as stunning as looking at a person killed, or the atom bomb.” And for a present involved with the artist’s social commitments, it treads alternatively gingerly over her aid for the American civil legal rights movement. We get a dreamy frieze from 1968 of Nanas of all colors, but not Saint Phalle’s huge Black Nanas, which nowadays feel daring and uncomfortable in equivalent evaluate.
At Salon 94, by distinction, the racialized Nana is on centre stage. The gallery has mounted a few massive sculptures in a winter season yard that echoes the layout of her first solo museum present, identified as “Nana Electric power,” at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1967. (“We have Black Ability, why not Nana Ability?” she said at the opening.) A person of them is called “Black Dancer,” balanced on just one foot, wearing a miniskirt like a mushroom cap. Another, also on a single foot and playing with a seashore ball, is titled “Le Péril Jaune” (“Yellow Peril”), from 1969 she has flowers on her breasts and flesh the coloration of a taxicab. She is a heroic figure, but Saint Phalle’s repurposing of a racist trope for its title carries a critical shock, in the Vietnam era and no a lot less currently.
It is natural to be still left uncomfortable by these painted giantesses. They’re much more than 50 % a century previous. But museums purged of not comfortable items are also playgrounds of a type, and Saint Phalle almost never gave audiences the absolutely accepted edition of anything. It’s lovely to construct a location to obtain, but she was equally a builder and a destroyer. She was a maker of structures to live in, and a pillager who shot to destroy.