At once thoughtfully conceived and thought-provoking, the exhibition Nicola L and The New Millennium; The Head, La Tête, La Cabeza, Il Capo, Der Kopf. A long day’s journey to the end of the skin. at Elga Wimmer PCC sets forth an epic manifesto of sorts regarding the mind, body, individuality and nature as viewed through the eyes of Nicola L, who has been active as a conceptual artist since the 1960s.
Texts by art critics Pierre Restany and Ted Castle, from which the exhibition takes its (thorough albeit wordy) name in tribute to these deceased friends of Nicola L’s, provocatively inform the artwork through placement both on the walls, and in a document available on the gallery’s website. The transcript of a 1986 conversation with Restany, reiterates Nicola L’s commitment and innovation to the spirit of Nouveau Realisme from her earliest efforts in the 1960s, even through to her most recent body of work, and additional texts by both men, independently address the artist’s use of elements of human physicality to be found in the works on view.
Indeed, the bodily existence of mankind takes center stage in the exhibition, as, immediately upon entering, visitors are confronted with a series of large-scale silhouettes of heads, credited by Restany as the most important part of the body, and a series of Giant Penetrables, monumental “ second skins” hanging from the wall with dedicated heads, arms and legs, imaginatively evocative of bodysuits for giant humanoids. Both bodies of work include references to nature and the elements, as the Giant Penetrables are marked on the chest of each with words such as “Sun” and “Moon,” and the head sculptures entitled Earth and Fire, are respectively filled or covered with wooden leaves and burning candles. As reiterated by the critic’s texts, the works embody Nicola L’s “celebration” of the head – as the center of consciousness and thus identity, and the skin as representative of sensuality and our physical iterations, all while the exhibition maintains itself as a reminder that humanity is at once deeply embedded, and indebted, as a member of the natural world.
A contemporary of pioneering artists such as Yves Klein, Nicola L’s work, including that of the nineties and aughts covered in this exhibition, represent a hallmark of Nouveau Realiste ideals. As evidenced at Elga Wimmer, her art also was, and remains, largely in sync with art criticism and philosophical thought, and in this context specifically seems to speak to a universal celebration of mind and body; the human spirit and the transcendence of thought and creativity.
Nicola L and The New Millennium:
The Head, LaTête, La Cabeza, Il Capo, Der Kopf
A long day’s journey to the end of the skin at Elga Wimmer PCC
September 15 – October 15, 2016