Whimsical, colorful artworks by Niki de Saint Phalle will be on view at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and at The Green, across the street from the Museum at the Levine Center for the Arts in Uptown Charlotte, NC, through Oct. 3, 2011. The exhibit, Niki de Saint Phalle: Creation of a New Mythology, includes elegant and subtle etchings as well as remarkably powerful and disconcerting sculptures.

The exhibition celebrates the artist’s extraordinary appetite for myths and legends as interpreted through dynamic and often provocative sculpture, paintings and prints. The Bechtler presents 55 works inside the museum and five large-scale outdoor works across the street, in addition to the Firebird sculpture that graces the museum’s plaza. The show will provide intellectual inquiry mixed with a sense of provocation, joy and delight.

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002) was a self-taught artist who matured in the company of some of the 20th century’s most important painters and sculptors. She was encouraged to develop her own style, which matured into a language of bold colors and expansive and active forms – a sense of both joy and mystery in a variety of media. She worked at all scales, with sculptures less than a foot high and others almost 20 feet tall.

In some instances, many of Saint Phalle’s interests combine and the works which first appear to be paintings, upon closer inspection are shifting and rotating, powered by small electric motors hidden within the work. Niki de Saint Phalle: Creation of a New Mythology is a kaleidoscopic journey where things don’t always appear as they seem.

Particularly because of the joyful quality in so much of her work and its powerful and seductive use of color, Saint Phalle has proven exceptionally intriguing to audiences who are new to the world of modern art and its complexities. Because of her apparent simplicity, the works can be enjoyed appropriately on a number of levels and the more a viewer gets to know her work, the more intriguing content and greater complexity of composition the viewer discovers without losing the initial attraction to its energy and attractiveness.

Saint Phalle’s outdoor sculptures are admired by audiences across the globe. Her playful, larger-than-life creations are constructed from fiberglass, colorful stones, glass, mirrors and ceramic tiles. Visitors are encouraged to touch and in some cases explore the works from the inside out as with Cat and La Cabeza, the brightly colored skull that faces the museum.

Several themes are suggested by the works in this exhibition, especially notions of beauty and the societal roles of women. In addition, Saint Phalle’s work depicts gods from various cultures. Snakes and birds surface throughout her oeuvre as harbingers of danger or temptation - and also as protectors. Life and death are considered in forms general and mystical and sometimes driven by contemporary circumstances.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is grateful for its partnership with the Niki Charitable Art Foundation in this exhibition. The exhibition is made possible with a generous grant from Wells Fargo Private Bank.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 704/353-9200 or at