Niki de Saint Phalle was part of a movement in Europe called Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism), which included Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni. Like the “Neo-Dadaists” in New York, the Nouveaux Réalistes favored the grittiness of everyday life over the elegant simplicity of 1950s abstraction (seen in this gallery in the works of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman). In 1960 the Nouveaux Réalistes signed a manifesto calling for “new approaches to the perception of the real.”
That same year, inspired by a child’s dart game, de Saint Phalle invented a provocative technique for creating her paintings. She attached bags of colored pigment to the canvases and shot them with a .22 caliber rifle. The impact of the bullets released the paint, which splattered and ripped across the surface in unpredictable ways. She used this method to create numerous works during the 1960s, often before an audience of invited guests who were encouraged to take part in the shooting.