Louise Nevelson: Total Life

Louise Nevelson

Lévy Gorvy, London

June 24 - August 20, 2021

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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 on the streets around her New York studio. Maintaining something of her chosen material’s prior history—as carpentered boards, cut disks, turned spindles, and hewn wood beams—Nevelson transformed disparate, accumulated elements into unified compositions that extend planar structures into three-dimensional space. She further defined her sculptures by painting them in a single monochromatic tone, highlighting her manipulation of form by emphasizing the dynamic play of surface, light, and shadow. In painting her works black, white, or gold, she claimed was “going back to the elements: shadows, light, the sun, the moon.” Visually and physically compelling, each work operates like a cabinet of curiosities that evokes poetic associations with the cosmos and primordial mysteries. Ancient Secrets II (1964) showcased her fusion of order and variety, with a grid hosting diverse squares in texture and placement. Nevelson’s signature black hue, symbolizing the culmination of color, was evident in Dawn’s Host (1959), an exceptional circular relief exuding the morning’s radiance. The Golden Pearl (1962), painted gold, signified spirituality, its intricate composition enhanced by decorative moldings and volumetric elements.

Nevelson’s collages, now recognized as a vital part of her oeuvre, paralleled her wooden sculptures in scale and materials. Displaying intimacy and spontaneity, they featured varied elements like colored paper, newspaper, and paint. The exhibition further encompassed Nevelson’s early abstracted nudes from the 1930s, jewelry, and works on paper, highlighting her artistic evolution from her studies with Hans Hofmann to assisting Diego Rivera.