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PIpilotti Rist in blue
PIpilotti Rist in blue

Pipilotti Rist at the New Museum, which is giving its entire building over to her forthcoming retrospective, “Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest.” Credit: Joshua Bright for The New York Times

The Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist may have been raised in the birthplace of Calvinism, with its reputation for austerity and penitence. But you wouldn’t know it by her work, or almost anything she has touched in an influential career spanning three decades. She titled one of her books “Congratulations!” and another, bound in pink velvet, “The Tender Room.” Her hallucinatory 2009 feature film, “Pepperminta,” told the tale, as she once described it, of “a young woman and her friends on a quest to find the right color combinations and with these colors they can free other people from fear.”

When she greeted me recently in the loading dock of the New Museum — which is giving its entire building over to her unconventional retrospective, “Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest,” opening Wednesday — she was brightly colored herself, in a sky-blue uniform jacket and matching pants that she said were a brand manufactured for Japanese electricians. She politely interrupted a morning planning meeting to make sure I knew the names of every one of the dozen or so people helping her install the show, including its curator, Massimiliano Gioni, whom she introduced as her uncle.

Mr. Gioni, the museum’s artistic director, smiled. “The creepy uncle?” he said. “Or the nice one?”

She replied: “Oh, the nice one. The one who takes you fishing.”

Ms. Rist’s work — which has been at the forefront of the evolution of video art, pulling it from the screen out into the world, projecting it everywhere from the ceiling to the insides of seashells, upending many of the conventions established by television and film — is the madcap aunt who takes you fishing. And wandering through the forest. And swimming in the buff. And gleefully smashing car windows with a cudgel in the shape of a long-stemmed flower, as a woman does in perhaps Ms. Rist’s best-known piece, “Ever Is Over All,” from 1997. The critic Peter Schjeldahl wrote that the video seemed to hold the promise of an era “of rococo pleasures, which would blur boundaries between art and entertainment in no end of surprising ways,” a judgment that seemed prescient after Beyoncé borrowed liberally from the work this year for her video for “Hold Up.”

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