Every artist needs an alley—some narrow, weedy, urine-soaked passage to call home. In the Paris of the fifties and sixties, an alley called the Impasse Ronsin wasthe alley to be: Brancusi, Max Ernst, Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Martial Raysse, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Claude Lalanne all worked in a squalid studio there. (Those last four, as it happens, have all contributed portfolios to The Paris Review.) As James McAuley tells it, the artists shared “a single toilet but many beds, cheap food but priceless ideas … It was also on the Impasse Ronsin that, in 1961, Niki de Saint Phalle, a former cover girl, launched her career as an international artist with a literal bang. For her ‘shooting’ canvases, she, along with friends such as Robert Rauschenberg, would fire guns into bags that concealed pockets of paint. This was somewhat of a Ronsin ritual, as Yves Klein had done much the same with the ‘Monotone-­Silence Symphony’ the year before. He had conducted an orchestra as nude women danced covered in blue paint, plastering their bodies on canvas as they twirled. In both cases, what mattered was performance as much as product.”


This and more in today’s arts and culture roundup.