Niki de Saint Phalle’s Shooting Paintings

I was revisiting today Niki de Saint Phalle’s Shooting Paintings (Tirs) of the early 1960s, where for the most part she creates plaster-covered canvases or assemblages and shoots at plastic bags or spray cans concealed within these sculptural paintings—thus doing painting, sculpture, assemblage, and performance art all at once. (To which we should add the photos and films which document the shooting sessions or her creative process.)

What I love about her Tirs is that she starts from Pollock’s action painting, which is so often regarded as very macho, and makes it seem rather feeble. Niki de Saint Phalle doesn’t dance around her canvases pouring out her emotions in a balanced fashion but rather takes aim at those paint containers and renders her works finished in a way that posits her as a powerful agent who has found a way to stand up to the violence in her life and the world around her.

In a future post I’ll look at her Nanas, voluptuous, colorful, and life-affirming, which she started creating in 1964 after her Tirs series.