“It is not the medium that counts. It is what you see in it and what you do with it.”
Pioneer American abstractionist Louise Nevelson is best known for her monochrome wall and box sculptures, collages, and environments hewn from materials found in the street. Using dismantled furniture, discarded architectural ornament, and scraps of wood, she assembled rigorous, dynamic constructions and painted them a single color, often black or white, to unify the composition and promote dramatic play of light and shadow. Over three decades, she developed an enigmatic body of work that sought, in her words, “the in-between places, the dawns and dusk, the objective world, the heavenly spheres, the places between the land and the sea.”
Born in Pereiaslav, Ukraine, Nevelson emigrated with her family to Rockland, Maine, in 1905. She moved to New York in 1920 and attended the Art Students League (1929–30). In the 1930s, she studied with Hans Hofmann in Munich, painted murals as an assistant to Diego Rivera, and taught art under the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Her first solo exhibition was mounted at Nierendorf Gallery, New York, in 1941, but she didn’t achieve recognition until the 1950s, when she initiated her monochromatic wood assemblages (including Sky Cathedral, 1958). She was included in the landmark exhibition Sixteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1959). In 1962, Nevelson participated in the Venice Biennale and joined Sidney Janis Gallery as their first American sculptor and first woman artist. With fellowships at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles in 1963 and 1967, she turned to printmaking. In 1965, she began to explore transparent industrial plastics and enameled metal, creating monumental sculptures defined by a more open, systematic organization of form.
Nevelson’s first retrospective was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1967, and she participated in Documenta, Kassel the following year. In 1969, Princeton University commissioned her first monumental Cor-Ten steel sculpture, followed by commissions from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1975), and the Philadelphia Federal Courthouse (1976), among others. In 1977, she completed both the Louise Nevelson Plaza, a seven-sculpture park commission in Lower Manhattan, and the Nevelson Chapel (Chapel of the Good Shepherd) at Saint Peter’s Church in Midtown Manhattan. In 1980, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a second retrospective of her work. For the final three decades of her life, Nevelson was active in many organizations, including Artists Equity (where she was in 1963 made President) and National Association of Women Artists. Among her numerous recognitions are six honorary doctorates, as well as the Gold Medal for Sculpture from the American Academy of the Arts (1983), a National Medal of Arts presented by President Reagan (1985), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s Great Artist Series Award (1986).
- Louise Nevelson: Total Life
- Lévy Gorvy, London
June 24 - August 20, 2021
Louise Nevelson: Total Life (2021) presented a selection of art created by Nevelson throughout her career, exhibiting key examples of her sculptural reliefs and collages from the 1950s through the ’80s, along with works on paper and jewelry that reveal the origins and depth of her artistic vision. Presented at Lévy Gorvy, London, Total Life provided a comprehensive view of Nevelson’s creativity and aesthetic in a testament to her enduring legacy.
Nevelson is celebrated for innovative assemblages composed of wood from furniture and architectural remnants that she found o...Read More
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