Installation of Nicola L's work

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Nicola L.

Nicola L. was born in 1932 in Morocco and died in 2018 in Los Angeles, where her estate is now based. In the 1960s she worked in Ibiza and Paris and was part of an intellectual and artistic cohort invested in both conceptual art and pop, which included Alberto Greco, Yves Klein, and Marta Minujín. Nicola L.’s oeuvre is full of humor and wit: men as sofas, knobs as nipples, unchaste applications of faux fur. She cleverly made literal the objectification of the female form. Generally her practice tackled representations of the body and the social persona through conceptual works, functional and domestic items, furniture, installations, paintings, films, performances, and diaristic and dreamlike drawings. Her caricatural anthropomorphic objects question the nature of subjectivity, especially in relation to her feminist concerns. Many of her sculptures invite the viewer to activate them through touch.

While living in Paris in 1960, Nicola L. started developing her Pénétrables, a series of canvases into which viewers could introduce parts of their bodies, getting inside the skin of a painting. Lining the wall are six Pénétrables, each one a different color and inscribed with a word that summons the image that the painting represents: “Cloud,” “Flower,” “Forest,” “Terre.” These works, made of naturally dyed canvas, face the gardens of The Huntington and are intended to be semiotic representations of nature. One of the Pénétrables stands apart, as it is adorned with a screenlike shape that bears the statement “We Don’t Want War.” This piece was originally the Cinéma Pénétrable, and the rectangular frame acted as a surface on which Nicola L. would project her films. She eventually transformed the screen into a banner, inscribing it with a political statement and foreshadowing her next body of work, which would be paintings as supports for slogans, extending her concern with art’s ability to embody social activism.

The Canapé Homme Géant / Sofa Homme (Giant Cut in Pieces) is part of Nicola L.’s furniture pieces. It is a functional artwork, a couch made of the detached parts of a pictographic rendering of a man’s body. While the torso remains the core of the sofa, the oversize man’s limbs act as pillows to be rearranged. This work, like many of Nicola L.’s other functional sculptures, challenges traditional approaches to sculpture as an untouchable object, reflecting her interest in the body as a modular form intended for play and analogy as well as the parody of social stereotypes.

In Made in L.A. 2020: a version, the artist's work is present in two institutions, across Los Angeles. See Nicola L.'s work on view at the Hammer.

BIOGRAPHY
Nicola L. was born in 1932 in Morocco and died in 2018 in Los Angeles, where her estate now resides. In the 1960s she worked in Ibiza and Paris and was part of an intellectual and artistic cohort invested in pop, which included Alberto Greco, Yves Klein, and Marta Minujín. Her overall practice is full of humor and wit: men as sofas, knobs as nipples, unchaste applications of faux fur. She brilliantly made literal the objectification of the female form. Generally her practice tackles representations of the body and of the social persona through conceptual works, functional and domestic objects, furniture, installations, performances, and films. She sustained through the years a diaristic and dreamlike drawing practice. Nicola L. was interested in exploring the skin and surface of things, and her caricatural anthropomorphic objects interrogate the construction of subjectivity, especially in relation to her feminist concerns. In the 1960s she started developing her Pénétrables, a series of canvases into which viewers could introduce parts of their bodies and get into the skin of the painting. A magnum opus of this series, La chambre en fourrure (1969), was conceived as a playful environment, and yet it bore a strong political statement addressing the individual’s social envelope. Nicola L.’s work was exhibited at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City, New York, in 2017.

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