Recently graduated from the Beaux-Arts de Paris, Alice Nikolaeva has a vast formal vocabulary combined with a great fearlessness in the use she makes of materials. As such, her acidulated hoops, manufactured products that relate more to Jessica Stockholder‘s non-pretentious objectsthan Donald Judd‘s specific objects, are integrated into roughly welded metal cuts. Together, they form what the visual artist calls her Playgrounds by which she fully affirms her taste for the geometric by proposing here a sentry box, on the wall a sculpture shaped like a propeller…
In contrast, the clay works evoking torn pieces of corrugated iron are very austere, simply marked by the passage of fire. The sinusoidal curves of her Broken Roofs recall the artist’s fascination with the circle and its variations by playing on the density of the terracotta. Scattered fragments, as if carried away by the storm, evoke a shelter that is no more.
To literally wrap everything, the disproportionate metal chain, symbol of private property, is reminiscent of Domenico Veneziano‘s excessive latch in his Annunciationor, closer to us, of Claes Oldenburg.
Through her pieces, the young artist dissects the building’s symbols and figures them in a plastic language evoking Minimalism, slightly ironic but bearing, above all, a real intention. However, we must beware of a nostalgic reading of past happy days, when Hula Hoop was in fashion. In the playground, this toy materializes a physical space: we enter the circle and the space within it is private. It then delimits a concrete, mobile territory, physically introducing the concept of flexible space that reminds of the system described by the philosopher Jürgen Habermas, where public and private are in a relationship of interdependence.
"the young artist dissects the building's symbols and figures them in a plastic language..."
It is precisely this public/private boundary that Alice Nikolaeva materializes, which divides and binds together at the same time. Its plastic and steel frameworks define a free space, neither completely inside nor completely outside, and echoes the reflexion of the architect Wim Cuyvers, who proposes an informal use of space, defining the public space as an existential dimension, outside the norms.
The intelligence of the proposals of Alice Nikolaeva is thus to reveal this complex way of thoughts or at least to raise awareness on the very political question of space: what are its limits, who has the permission to enter it, what is it allowed to do in it?
It seems that being a sculptor Today is a commitment to work in and about space, as Alice Nikolaeva rightly does. This is not just a political manifesto, but a broader reflection on space and shelter.Her approach allows us to experience the question of the functional and antagonistic use of places, such as parks in an urban area, between day and night, time being coded, space being an order.