The Pop Gun Method
It’s not everyday that an artist exhibits the creative capacity to invent a style uniquely their own. From Van Gogh’s fluid brushstrokes and Duchamp’s readymades, to Andy Warhol’s trademark silkscreen process and Keith Haring’s pop graffiti imagery; few have successfully developed a distinctive art form or new medium. Amongst a handful of such cases resides a widely unsung but equally palpable example known as the Pop Gun method, devised by 20th century French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
Widely recognized for her whimsical, large-scale sculptures often depicting animals and curvaceous females, decades before Niki de Saint Phalle laid claim to her vibrant, idiosyncratic style, the artist approached her medium as a therapeutic outlet. Having suffered immense personal trauma as a young girl, de Saint Phalle’s early work lent itself intimately to the neo-avant-garde art world as well as the genre of performance art.
Niki de Saint Phalle first began utilizing the Pop Gun method in 1960 as part of the ‘Salon de Comparisons: Peinture Sculpture’ exhibition in Paris. Inspired by a personal desire of wanting to see a canvas wounded and bleeding, by the show’s opening, de Saint Phalle staged a production entitled ‘Hors d’oeuvre (Portrait of my Lover/Portrait of Myself)’ in which she invited audience members to throw darts at her work.
Immediately following the exhibition, De Saint Phalle began finding solace in such destructive acts, personally shooting balloons of paint attached to a stark white plaster canvas near her studio in Paris. Seeking to liberate a work’s potential and ridding her life of violent memories, the Pop Gun technique exemplified De Saint Phalle’s innovative methods, daring aesthetic, and personal quest towards embracing acceptance of the unknown.