Installation view of “Nicola L.: Works, 1968 to the Present” at the SculptureCenter, New York, 2017. Photo: Kyle Knodell. Courtesy of the SculptureCenter.

Nicola L. (1937–2018)

Nicola L., the French Moroccan artist whose sculptures, performances, videos, and designs borrowed elements from Pop and the Parisian Nouveau Réalisme movement to examine the female body, died on Monday. She was eighty-one years old. Since the mid-1960s, L. tested the limits of sculpture and the construction of the feminine subject by creating anthropomorphic, functional objects in plush and curvy feminized shapes, as exemplified by works such as Woman Sofa, 1968, and Little TV woman: ‘I Am the Last Woman Object, 1969. The latter work consists of an hourglass figure with splayed legs, drawers for breasts, and a television torso that periodically reads the message: “I am the last woman object / you can touch my mouth / my breasts / my stomach / but I repeat myself it’s the last time.” 

SculptureCenter’s Ruba Katrib, who curated L.’s 2017 retrospective at the New York museum, told Artnews: “Nicola was dedicated to art and politics, never concerned with prescriptive modes of making. She embedded her singular vision into hybrid-forms of sculpture, painting, clothing, performance, furniture, and early interactive pieces, while also making films and writing plays. . . . She fearlessly tried new things and never got enough credit for her influential pieces, many of which have circulated widely, becoming iconic, yet often unattributed.”

Born in 1937 in Morocco, L. was influenced by her studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the new figurative movements and sociopolitical context of the 1960s and 1970s. In a 2015 interview held at Tate Britain, L. described the instructive from her teacher, the French painter Jean Souverbie, to “cut the body up in the same way that light was cutting the live model,” which served as one impetus for her practice. Her work is currently included in “Chère,” a four-person group show at Arsenal Contemporary gallery on the Bowery in New York, where, along with Paris, the artist was based.