NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE
Ricardo Cat, 1999
urethane skin on steel, ceramic tile, stained glass, mirrors, stones in epoxy grout, silicone grout
108 x 88 x 100 inches
Laumeier Sculpture Park Commission, with funds from the Sidney Cohen Purchase Fund, Nancy Singer, Commerce Bank and the Horowitz Foundation
Ricardo Cat almost purrs contentedly as it cuddles seated guests. A curiosity for culture leads Saint Phalle to lap up equal measures of theology, myth and legend. This sculpture draws on Egyptian, Greek and pre-Colombian tales about felis catus, encapsulating the roles of playful kitten, sheltering mother and mercurial companion by incorporating wild fantasies and everyday objects within its fur of mosaic shards. The azure-headed feline also embraces the contradictory representations of good versus evil, male versus female, comfort versus terror. Underneath the polychromatic "tabby-calico-van-tuxedo" coat of ceramic and glass, a watertight urethane skin covers a stocky, concrete steel armature. The visible effect combines joyful and despairing icons built upon the foundation of the artist’s independent playfulness.
Sculpture Interaction Guideline: Sit, But Do Not Climb
Niki de Saint Phalle, French sculptor, writer, stage designer and filmmaker, was born outside Paris in 1930. A self-taught artist, she created a sensation in the 1960’s when she started firing guns at her canvases during her performances, occasionally joined by American Pop Art pioneers Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Saint Phalle's most famous series of works is the large-scale, whimsical sculptures of women which examining the various roles of women in society. Her most ambitious artistic undertaking is Giardino dei Tarocchi (The Tarot Garden), a fantastic garden full of imaginary creatures and dream architecture reminiscent of Tarot cards, located in Tuscany and completed after twenty years, opening in 1998. Saint Phalle's work can be seen in public collections including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Modern, London; and the Stedeijk Museum, Amsterdam.