Pierre Restany

“If we go back to the start of the 60s, we find maybe the most fascinating aspect of your work as an artist: your extreme involvement with pure existential values. It was a very important moment for Europe, the turning of a chapter, the end of the reconstruction period and the start of the economic boom, which brought a very strong collective awareness to the French people. They suddenly realized that they were entering the industrialized Western world. That’s quite important. During the questioning post war period, there had been a kind of veteran spirit, and because of the trauma of the Second World War people considered art as a way of escape from many problems, the antidote to a very sad story. In the 60s, this was absolutely finished. The new generation wanted to live in the real world, to go back to reality. Reality is a kind of perpetual dream, and we were in a period of acute awareness of richness with nobody thinking of oil crisis or financial crisis. Instead there was great energy, a feeling that life is a dream, dream is life, and every dream possible. So you entered the art world, Nicola, when everybody in continental Europe was thinking just like Jules Verne. We find this optimism in the spirit of Nouveau Realisme, and in the spirit of Americans such as Rauschenberg and Johns. An entire generation discovered city life, the industrialized world, and the media’s network took on a new nature. The city was the natural spring for many kinds of potential languages and expressive situations: the compressed cars of César, the blue of Klein, the lacerated posters, the packs of Christo, the animated machines of Tinguely, the target paintings of Niki de St. Phaile. And in many ways it stimulated your imagination, Nicola, and it gave you a feeling of free expression, exactly as the Surrealists who emigrated in 1939 to America imbued the future Pollock and Kline with the free syntax of automatic writing projected into gestural painting. So I think that you were provided with an exceptional dimension of freedom, which you used first in a descriptive way as I remember in the collages of that period, then very quickly transferring it into tangible and practical terms: your own emotional mood, a kind of sensual language of self-explanation in your pénétrables. When I remember this period I understand that the sensibility of a woman is very important not only for the specific possibility of a situation, but also because she can become a kind of living archive of feelings, facts, of the profile of a moment. And this may appear more directly in a woman than in the work and language of contemporary male protagonists of a scene. What I can see now with the distance of time, under the pressure and the spur of these recurring memories, is that this sensibility is still alive in you, the substance, the flesh, of your own present imagination, with no break of continuity, no rupture, no gap between the years of the 60s and the present. This is quite important. You lived, let us say, your real creative training during those years, and you have kept the idea that everything can be art, to quote the famous theory of the Dadaist guru of the entire incoming generation, John Cage. How could a composer be such an effective teacher, and how could he grasp the totality of the creative terms of the moment? Surely because he was feeling no distance between his own behavior and the space of creativity, no distance between the way you live and the way you create. Is it a truck passing by? Is that music? Well, you gave your own specific answer to this interrogative statement of Cage by performing day after day an inclusive process of creation. And maybe now, after the gap of the energy crisis when the rich industrial world had a taste of poverty, we are turning back to a new consumistic era, the illusion of a new economic boom, a new technological era,—a pure genetic period, the quote Léotard—so that the things you felt passionately, organically, spontaneously, in the early 60s, are coming once again to the forefront of the scene. And through the linguistic screen of your work you are ready to confront the year 2000, the new Millennium… “

“Nicola And The New Millennium” by Pierre Restany
(Transcribed from a conversation with Nicola, Alan Moss and Alan Jones in Soho, April 29, 1986)