The artist's advocates remember her as a steely, determined force of nature.
Sarah Cascone, January 3, 2019
Conceptual French artist Nicola L., whose feminist work has been experiencing newfound recognition in recent years, died on Monday in Los Angeles at the age of 81. Her shape-shifting art, which spans sculpture, painting, performance, and furniture, often explored the human (and mostly the female) body.
L. “passed… peacefully in her sleep,” Loreta Lamargese, director of New York’s Arsenal Contemporary told artnet News in an email. The gallery’s current exhibition, “CHÈRE” (through January 13), pairs L.’s work with that of three young Canadian artists, Nadia Belerique, Ambera Wellmann, and Chloe Wise. (News of the artist’s passing was first broken by the artist Joseph Nechvatal, who posted a tribute to Nicola L. on his website, recalling his experience watching one of her performances.)
“Nicola was a free spirit and was shaped by the 1960s counterculture she emerged from,” Ruba Katrib, who organized the artist’s 2017 retrospective at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, told artnet News. “She pushed social and political boundaries in her work at a time when it was very daring for a woman to take ownership over her own body.”
Born in 1937 in Mazagan, Morocco, L. studied painting at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. But in 1964, Argentinean artist Alberto Greco asked her a question that would change her life: “How can you paint in the 1960s?” she recounted in a recent interview. In response, she said, “I burned all of my abstract paintings.”
Moving forward, L. developed her own unique practice, blending sculpture, design, video, and performance, all with a feminist edge. She moved to New York in 1979. For nearly 30 years, she called the Chelsea Hotel home, holding on to her apartment even as new owners transformed the longtime artist haven into a luxury hotel. In 2014, she released a documentary, Doors Ajar at the Chelsea Hotel, about the residence’s storied history.
Her first visit to the hotel was back in 1968, when she was performing at La MaMa Experimental Theater Club. “For me it was unbelievable. It made Paris look like the provinces by comparison. But prostitutes and pimps were a part of the package of the Chelsea. And artists—I will not say that they are prostitutes, but they are selling themselves,” L. recalled to Vanity Fair in 2013. “It was either Janis Joplin or the big woman from the Mamas and the Papas who tried to kiss me in the elevator. I can’t remember which. It was a crazy time.”
Immersed in that creative milieu, L. lived in an apartment full of her own art. She is perhaps best known for her large-scale sculptural furniture pieces that often take the form of women’s bodies—a literal objectification—which she began showing in 1969 in Paris at Daniel Templeton and in Brussels at Galerie Veranneman.
In 1970, she debuted her first work of performance art at the Festival of the Isle of Wight. Inspired by the political demonstrations of the era, Red Coat united 11 performers in connected body-obscuring hooded cloaks. The garment was one of her “Penatrables,” loose textiles meant to act as an extension of human skin, underscoring our shared humanity.
The work was later one of several of her pieces included in the exhibition “The World Goes Pop” at London’s Tate Modern in 2015, which examined lesser-known global and political strains of Pop art.
“In researching the many artists who were women and engaged with pop around the world, I encountered Nicola Ls work in the collection of a Belgian design and furniture collector who had acquired her incredible Little TV woman: ‘I Am the Last Woman Object’ (1969),” the exhibition curator Jessica Morgan, director of the Dia Art Foundation, recalled in an email to artnet News, calling the piece “a feminist work that brilliantly satirized the use of the female form in art and commerce.”
“I was especially struck by the critical fusion and flexibility of her adaptations of art and design and of course set out to meet her,” she added. “Like so many artists who are women, Nicola’s work was later overlooked despite her early success. We all need to work harder to learn about these remarkable artists of the past who were written out of history.”
The Tate show marked a turning point of sorts for the artist, who had two solo shows at New York’s Elga Wimmer PCC in 2015 and 2016. Her first institutional solo show, “Nicola L.: Works, 1968 to the Present,” followed the following year.
Giving the exhibition the green light was an easy decision for the institution. “Nicola L. was an artist whose work defied easy categorization and who was significantly underexposed in the contemporary art field,” said director Mary Ceruti in an email to artnet News. “SculptureCenter champions many women artists for whom this is the case.”
Despite her recent resurgence, L.’s star was only just beginning to rise. According to the artnet Price Database, L.’s record at auction is just €31,200 ($34,942), set in 2016 at Artcurial in Paris for a pair of lamp sculptures titled Oeil. Her work is in the collections of museums including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; FRAC Bretagne, Rennes; MAMCO, Geneva; Art & Design Atomium Museum, Brussels; and M HKA Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp.
“Over her prolific career, Nicola L. carved unexpected paths through acts of making that led her from function to form, always with a wry sense of humor,” said Loreta Lamargese. “She expanded the human body, rounding it out, engorging its size, until it became robust and utilitarian—men as sofas, knobs as nipples…. Like her Red Coat, a multi-person coat meant to incorporate many wearers into a collective, her practice forefronted what dissolves and what is gained in the politics of gathering and sharing.”
John Alcorn (February 10, 1935 – January 27, 1992) was an American commercial artist and designer, and an illustrator of children's books. In addition to his accomplishments in the areas of packaging, corporate and dimensional design, Alcorn designed the opening titles for several Federico Fellini films. During his career, Alcorn created numerous book jackets and paperback covers, and his work appeared in many major exhibits.
A native New Yorker, John Alcorn was born in Corona, Queens, in 1935. When he was five years old, his family moved to Great Neck, Long Island. He was educated in the local schools. He studied graphic arts at The Cooper Union. During his first two years at Cooper Union, he studied drawing, calligraphy, architecture, the mechanics of typography, and dimensional design. In his last year his studies consisted of illustration, graphics and advertising design.
Alcorn's early career included work in the art department of Esquire magazine, a brief stint with a pharmaceutical advertising agency, and sound training at the Push Pin Studios, the celebrated design studio founded by Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins, and Edward Sorel. In 1958 Alcorn joined CBS Radio and subsequently the CBS-TV art department, but a year later he decided to freelance exclusively. In 1962 Alcorn designed and illustrated Books! by Murray McCain, which was selected as one of the best fifty books of the year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Besides book illustrations, Alcorn designed numerous paperback covers, jackets, and promotion materials.
Following graduation from Cooper Union, Alcorn married and in 1962 settled in Ossining, New York, where he lived with his wife Phyllis, and their four sons. In 1971 he moved with his family to Florence, Italy. In 1977 he returned with his family to the United States, settling in Cold Spring, New York. In 1983 Alcorn and his wife moved to Hamburg Cove in Lyme, Connecticut.
Exhibitions and collections
Alcorn's work has been exhibited at the Louvre in Paris, the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, and the Venice Biennale. It was included in the Push Pin Studios Retrospective Show at the Louvre, in March 1970. Alcorn's works are included in the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota.
Alcorn received awards from the New York Art Directors Club, the Society of Illustrators, and Cooper Union. In 1968 he won first prize at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. He was the recipient of the prestigious Augustus Saint-Gaudens Medal from Cooper Union. In 1970, he was selected as the first graphic artist to be Artist-In-Residence at Dartmouth College. In 1987 he was Artist-In-Residence at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Other awards include:
New York Times choice of Best Illustrated Children's Books of the Year
1962 for Books!
1966, for Wonderful Time
Fifty Books of the Year, American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1963, for Books!
first prize Bologna Children's Book Fair, 1968
Augustus St. Gaudens Medal, The Cooper Union, 1970
Books illustrated by Alcorn are all for children, except as indicated.
Murray McCain, Books! (nonfiction), J. Cape, 1962
Al Hine, Where in the World Do You Live? (fiction), Harcourt, 1962
Mary Kay Phelan, The Circus, Holt, 1963
Ogden Nash, Everyone but Thee and Me (adult poems), Dent, 1963
Hine, Money Round the World, Harcourt, 1963
Stella Standard, The Art of Fruit Cookery, Doubleday, 1964
Sesyle Joslin, The Petite Famille (French language reader), Harcourt, 1964
Television Note Book: 1964, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 1964
McCain, Writing! (nonfiction), Ariel, 1964. Hine, A Letter to Anywhere (nonfiction), Harcourt, 1964
Marie Winn and Alan Miller, The Fireside Book of Children's Songs, Simon & Schuster, 1966
Phyllis McGinley, Wonderful Time (poems), Lippincott, 1966
Joslin, La Fiesta (Spanish language reader), Harcourt, 1967
Jan Wahl, Pocahontas in London (fiction), Delacorte, 1967
Martin Gardner, Never Make Fun of a Turtle, My Son (poems), Simon & Schuster, 1969
One, Two, Three, Hallmark, 1970
The Great Book of Puzzles and Perplexities, 1978
He also illustrated and designed numerous book jackets and paperback covers, two print catalogs, and contributed illustrations to many periodicals, including McCall's, Playboy, and Sports Illustrated.
Biography by Stephen Alcorn
American Artist (Sept. 1958)
Graphis (Nov. 1958), Vol. 27, 1971–72
Newsweek (June 10, 1963)
Publishers Weekly (June 1, 1964)
Lee Kingman and others compilers, Illustrators of Children's Books, 1957-1966 (Horn Books, 1968)
Doris de Montrville and Donna Hill, editors, Third Book of Junior Authors (H. W. Wilson, 1972)
Keiichi Tanaami, 82-years-old and one of postwar Japan's leading pop artists, is hailed as a magician of visual images and known for the absurdity of the fantasy worlds constructed in his work, ranging from paintings, installations to graphic designs.
An exhibition that reviews his work since the 1960s is now on at the K11 gallery in Guangzhou, a shopping and art experience mall, and will run through Sept 2.
His work transmits an overwhelming visual effect that is closely associated with his childhood experiences during the war, while the weird, sophisticated patterns and his distinctive vocabulary of creation are derivative of Japanese folk arts. His artwork blends dreams, memories and illusions into the imagery of pop culture.