Nicola L.

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Open: Tue-Sat 11am-6pm

16-18 Berners St, W1T 3LN, London, UK
Open: Tue-Sat 11am-6pm


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Nicola L.

London

Nicola L.
to Sat 23 Jul 2022
Tue-Sat 11am-6pm
Artist: Nicola L

Alison Jacques presents an exhibition spanning 50 years of work by Nicola L. (b. 1932, Morocco; d. 2018, US). This exhibition, presented in partnership with the Nicola L. Collection and Archive, Los Angeles, is the artist’s first UK exhibition, and anticipates a forthcoming monograph, published by Apartamento in Autumn 2022, and a major survey at Camden Art Centre, London, in 2024.

Artworks

The Library Head, 2013

Wood
213.4 x 162.6 x 30.5 cm (84 1/8 x 64 1/8 x 12 1/8 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Same Skin For Everybody, 1975

Ink, cotton and wood
102.5 x 271 x 14 cm (40 3/8 x 106 3/4 x 5 1/2 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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We Want to Breathe, 1975

Ink, cotton and wood
110 x 255 x 14 cm (43 1/4 x 100 3/8 x 5 1/2 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Meditation, 1991

Oil on canvas
Framed: 227.5 x 182 x 4 cm (89 5/8 x 71 5/8 x 1 5/8 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Forest, 1974

Ink, cotton and wood
144.8 x 86.4 cm (57 x 34 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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We Don’t Want War, c. 1974/1995

Ink, cotton, oil on canvas and wood
147.3 x 88.9 cm (58 x 35 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Flower, 1974

Ink, cotton and wood
160 x 83.8 cm (63 x 33 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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White Foot Sofa, 1968

Vinyl
76.2 x 170.2 x 88.9 cm (30 x 67 1/8 x 35 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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La Femme Coffee Table, 1969/2015

Plywood on Plexiglass base
34.9 x 295.9 x 73.7 cm (13 3/4 x 116 1/2 x 29 1/8 in)
1/1 AP from an intended Edition of 5 + 1 AP. Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Makenzie L Goodman

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Gold Femme Commode, 1969/1993

Painted birch
171.4 x 63.5 x 31.8 cm (67 1/2 x 25 x 12 1/2 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Screen for 3 (Remembering Alberto Greco), 1975/2014

Cotton and wood
3 panels, each: 200.7 x 100.3 cm (79 x 39 1/2 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Snail (blue), 1995

Plexiglass
63.5 x 40.6 x 10.2 cm (25 x 16 x 4 in)
1/1 AP realised by the artist for an intended Edition of 3 + 1 AP. Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Snail (green), 1995

Plexiglass
63.5 x 40.6 x 10.2 cm (25 x 16 x 4 in)
1/1 AP realised by the artist for an intended Edition of 3 + 1. Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Snail (yellow), 1995

Plexiglass
63.5 x 40.6 x 10.2 cm (25 x 16 x 4 in)
1/1 AP realised by the artist for an intended Edition of 3 + 1 AP. Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Planet Heads #4, 1990

Collage and oil on canvas
Framed: 124.5 x 94 x 4 cm (49 1/8 x 37 1/8 x 1 5/8 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Planet Heads #3, 1990

Oil, paper and collage on canvas
Framed: 124.5 x 94 x 4 cm (49 1/8 x 37 1/8 x 1 5/8 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Planet Heads #1, 1990

Oil on canvas
Framed: 124.5 x 94 x 4 cm (49 1/8 x 37 1/8 x 1 5/8 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Planet Heads #5, 1990

Oil and newspaper clippings on canvas
Framed: 124.5 x 94 x 4 cm (49 1/8 x 37 1/8 x 1 5/8 in)
Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London © Nicola L. Collection and Archive; photo: Michael Brzezinski

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Nicola L. spent her childhood between North Africa and France. In 1950, when she was nearly eighteen, she left her family home in the Ardennes city of Sedan and decamped to Paris, which, in addition to New York and Ibiza, would prove vital to the development of her practice. Nicola L. found Paris in the midst of cultural upheaval. Abstraction succumbed to figuration; Pop Art took hold, along with its European counterpart, Nouveau Réalisme; art felt collaborative.

It was during this period that Nicola L. first incorporated the body into her work. It was not until 1964, however, that the full potential of this metaphor made itself apparent. Following a meeting with her mentor, the Argentinian artist Alberto Greco, in Ibiza, Nicola L. lay on a beach and dreamt of a single unifying skin: a literal and metaphorical site within which the individual could become the collective. Greco took his life the following year. Nicola ‘burned all of my abstract paintings’ and produced the first in her series of Pénétrables: wearable fabrics that connected those within, transforming a group of individuals into a singular, functioning organism.

The Pénétrables and the political banners that followed (Same Skin For Everybody, 1975; We Want to Breathe, 1975) encouraged bodies to gather and co-exist; the ‘functional objects’, however, deconstructed them completely. Assuming various forms – La Femme Coffee Table (1969/2015); Red Lip Lamp (1969); White Foot Sofa (1968) – this anthropomorphic furniture took the objectification of women’s bodies to a comedic conclusion, while accentuating Nicola L.’s belief that art should serve a function. ‘I refused to create sculptures that were not going to be used for something’, she once said.

This philosophy was most visibly implemented in 1989, when Nicola L. took up permanent residence in the Chelsea Hotel in New York, her home until 2017. Collaborating with interior designer Fred Flores, Nicola L. transformed one of the hotel’s apartments into The Snail Suite: an immersive space in which rugs, headboards and tables took the shape of a snail shell. Represented at Alison Jacques through a trio of Plexiglass lamps – Snail (yellow), Snail (green) and Snail (blue) (all 1995) – this spiral form spoke to the infinite cycles of life, while also extending the logic of the Pénétrables. As curator Ruba Katrib notes: ‘the shell can be understood as both architecture and skin’.

Politics and collective action were central to Nicola L.’s practice, whether experimenting with performance, sculpture or film, her focus in the 1980s. Fundamentally, however, hers was a humanist project, something typified by the form of the head that characterised much of her work in the 1990s. During this period, Nicola L. recommitted to painting, a medium that had proven vital throughout her life, and incorporated heads into such works as Meditation (1991) and the ‘Planet Heads’ series (1990) of oil and newspaper collages. A fitting late chapter in Nicola L.’s storied career, these paintings upheld human consciousness as the sole creative force in the universe, one that invites hope, remembrance or even revolution.

Nicola L. had museum solo exhibitions at SculptureCenter, New York, curated by Ruba Katrib (2017), and Brooklyn Art Museum, New York (2005) and was included in ground-breaking institutional exhibitions such as ‘Elles’, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2009), and ‘The World Goes Pop’, Tate Modern, London (2015). Recently, her work was included in ‘Our Silver City, 2094’, Nottingham Contemporary (2021-22); ‘Domestic Drama’, Halle für Kunst & Medien, Graz (2021–22); ‘She-Bam Pow POP Wizz!’, MAMAC, Nice (2021); ‘Made in L.A. 2020: a version’, Hammer Museum and The Huntington, LA (2021); and ‘Amazons of Pop!’, Kunsthalle zu Kiel (2021), which is on view at Kunsthaus Graz until August 2022.

A panel discussion on the work of Nicola L. will be available to view from 1 June on the gallery website (alisonjacques.com). The talk features Nicola L.’s son Christophe Lanzenberg; Flavia Frigeri, Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London; and Ruba Katrib, Curator, MoMA PS1, New York.

‘Nicola L.’, 2022, exhibition view, Alison Jacques, London. Courtesy: Alison Jacques; photo: Michael Brzezinski


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