Thursday, August 16, 2012

Park Avenue features Niki de Saint Phalle

As I was nearing the Seagram Building while walking last Saturday along the vehicle-less Park Avenue during the first NYC Summer Streets, I remembered walking the same route one day last spring in search of Rafael Barrios' works which I wrote about in a previous blog.  I was expecting to see the familiar floating-like shapes but what greeted me were full-sized, very colorful objects.  It was then that I realized Park Avenue has a new public art on display. Featuring nine gigantic works of sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, I just had to stop and take pictures of all of them.

According to the NYC Parks website:
Niki de Saint Phalle’s signature work comes to Park Avenue with this major, site-specific installation. Ten sculptures made of polyester resin, with mosaics of ceramic, mirror, and stained glass tower above the crowds and traffic at as high as 16 feet tall and 13 feet wide. The internationally acclaimed artist’s sculptural nanas, totems, athletes, and jazz musicians are playful and dynamic, bringing new life to Park Avenue. This exhibition coincides with the ten year commemoration of Niki de Saint Phalle’s passing, celebrating the life and achievements of a monumental artist. 
This exhibition is presented by the Nohra Haime Gallery.
The first four artworks came from de Saint Phalle's Nana series. These feature huge female figures inspired by the pregnancy of her friend Clarice Rivers, the wife of American artist Larry Rivers. Her artistic expression of the proverbial everywoman were named 'Nanas'.

The first figure was was titled Nana on a Dolphin.

Here's a pic taken from the back part ..

And a close up of the dolphin.

Each artwork is accompanied by a sign indicating the title of the work, the year it was made, and what it's made of.

Nana on a Dolphin is situated across the Racquet and Tennis Club Building on the west side and the Seagram Building on the east. Unlike the Rafael Barrios exhibit, the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibit are closely spaced, only about a block or two between each artwork.

The next artwork features three full-bodied women titled Les Trois Graces.

Looks like they're enjoying their dance. Here are close-up pics of the other two.

Saint Phalle's website states that she has always admired American Indian totems and felt they contained a spiritually protective, mysterious glow. One of her totem works is the third artwork on the exhibit, the Grand Step Totem, which features a Nana-like mother and her child under a deity represented by a mask.

Here's the back part of the artwork.

The fourth artwork is titled Les Baigneurs which features a couple in their swimsuits.

I don't know the significance of the spider but here's a close-up pic.

After the four artworks above, the next four feature de Saint Phalle's Black Heroes series, a homage to prominent African-Americans.

Complete in 2000, Nike de Saint Phalle’s Black Heroes series was truly important to the family and life of the artist. Her work aims to bring joy to and inspire viewers, and this endeavor was no exception. As a child, Saint Phalle searched for heroes and cultural icons to look up to and wanted to instill the same ideas into her biracial great-grandson. Saint Phalle chose prominent and inspiring members of the African American community related to sports or music to highlight in the Black Heroes series.
Niki de Saint Phalle called San Diego home from 1994 until her death in 2002.  She came to San Diego because of the fantastic climate but ironically and sadly, the art ultimately caused her death. She used polyester to create her fanciful sculptures and the polyester fumes brought on emphysema and she died in 2002 in La Jolla, California.

The fifth artwork on this display is called #19 Baseball Player, a homage to Tony Gwynn, retired from the San Diego Padres.

Another shot taken from a different angle

Walking further, I have this great view of the back of the next artwork. Hmm, looks like a basketball player.

Now, i see the number on the player's jersey, and I guess we all know who it belongs to. #23 Basketball Player was created in 1999 to represent the incomparable skills of the NBA’s most famous athlete, Michael Jordan.  He is depicted doing the “slam dunk” while the silver sculpture underneath is a spirit that lifts him to unimaginable heights.

The next artwork is that of Miles Davis, the jazz great wears a coat of many colors and is seen blowing a golden trumpet.

The back of the sculpture.

The last of the Black Heroes series features Louis Armstrong with a golden trumpet.

Here's the musician at the center of Park Avenue.

The last and final artwork gracing Park Avenue is the Serpent Tree, kind of reminds me of the Hydra in Greek mythology.

Here's a pic taken from a closer angle, the colors are just gorgeous. I've seen some pics of this artwork as a fountain with water pouring out of the serpents' mouths.

So I've come to the end of the exhibit.  Despite what is stated in the NYC Parks website, there are only nine sculptures, not ten.  

Ahh, that was a feast for the eyes! I'm hoping to come back and stroll along Park Avenue again, and enjoy the sculptures, the colors, the vibrancy of each piece .. and I still have three more months to enjoy them before the exhibit ends on November 15.

For the rest of my Niki de Saint Phalle on Park Avenue pics, here's the album on Flickr.

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