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Louise Nevelson

Sculpture of the 50s and 60s

About Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson (b. 1899, Kiev; d. 1988, New York), a leading sculptor of the twentieth century, pioneered site-specific and installation art. She is recognized for her sculptures of unified box-like structures that are comprised of discarded furniture and other wood elements found in the area surrounding her studio, and painted in monochromatic black, white, or gold. She also experimented with bronze, terracotta, and Plexiglas, as well as collage, works on paper, and the realm of public art. With her compositions, Nevelson explored the relational possibilities of sculpture, summing up the objectification of the external world into a personal landscape. Although her practice is situated in lineage with Cubism and Constructivism, her sense of space and interest in the transcendence of the object reveal an affinity with Abstract Expressionism.

Featured in over 400 group exhibitions, Nevelson represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1962 and was also included in the 1976 edition of the Biennale. In addition to Sixteen Americans, other prominent group exhibitions include The Art of Assemblage, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1961); the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (1958, 1961, 1964, 1970); and Documenta, Kassel (1964, 1968).

Press Release

  • Louise Nevelson: Sculpture of the '50's and '60s
    PaceWildenstein is pleased to present historical work by Louise Nevelson on view from March 19 through April 27, 2002 at 32 East 57th Street in New York City. Focusing on the sculptures Nevelson completed during the 1950s and 1960s, this exhibition will feature walls from the breakthrough environments that introduced Nevelson as the pioneering American figure in environment and installation art. Pace’s show will include approximately fifteen wall reliefs and free-standing monochrome sculptures constructed of wood and painted either white or black—two pieces, Silent Music II and Square Reflection, incorporate fragments of glass mirror. In the catalogue essay accompanying the exhibition, art critic Robert C. Morgan charts Nevelson’s creative development and her embrace of both Eastern and Western sensibilities and aesthetics; her work recalls traditions as diverse as Japanese Zen Buddhist temples and Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau in Hannover. Morgan writes: “Such works go beyond the superficial longings that permeate the banalities of politics and popular culture in everyday life. Her sculpture functions at the core of the formalist argument—that art must survive through its own means, and through our willingness to engage with that means through the temporality of perception. To indulge in these works as a pure visual experience is a delight…Her later transgressive vocabulary was as much an extension of nature into sculpture as Pollock’s was into painting.” Louise Nevelson (1899 – 1988) was born in Kiev, Russia and immigrated to Rockland, Maine at the age of six. Following her marriage in 1920, Nevelson moved to New York City where she later studied at the Art Students League (1929-30) under the tutelage of Kenneth Hayes Miller. She continued her education by studying with Hans Hoffman in Munich and working as an assistant to Diego Rivera prior to participating in her first group exhibition organized by the Secession Gallery at the Brooklyn Museum in 1935. As a part of the Works Progress Administration, Nevelson taught art at the Education Alliance School of Art (NY) and received her first solo exhibition at the Nierendorf Gallery in New York City. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Nevelson worked at the Sculpture Center (NY) and at Atelier 17; it was during the mid-Fifties that she produced her first series of black wood landscape sculptures. Shortly thereafter, three New York City museums acquired her work: the Whitney Museum of American Art purchased Black Majesty (1956), The Brooklyn Museum purchased First Personage (1957), and The Museum of Modern Art purchased Sky Cathedral (1958). In 1967, the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY) organized Nevelson’s first retrospective, and her work has been the subject of over 135 solo exhibitions including a posthumous 1994 retrospective organized by the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Nevelson was occupied with numerous public commissions and the production of large-scale sculpture and monumental environments often using Cor-Ten steel. Invited to participate in an international selection of group shows, Nevelson’s work appeared in the Pittsburgh International Exhibition at the Carnegie Institute (1958, 1961, 1964, 1970), the Venice Biennale (1962, 1976), Expo 1970 in Osaka, Japan, Documenta III in Kassel (1964), the 1973 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Spoleto Festival (1982-83), among others. Throughout her career, Nevelson held numerous leadership positions within the arts community, including: President of the Artist’s Equity New York chapter (1957-9); two-time President of National Artist’s Equity (1962, 1963); first Vice-President of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors (1962); National Association of Women Artists member (1962); Sculptor’s Guild member (1962); participant in the National Council on the Arts and Government, Washington, DC (1965); and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (1979). The recipient of many awards, Nevelson received honorary degrees from Western College for Women (Oxford, OH; 1966), Smith College (Northampton, MA; 1973), Columbia University (New York, NY; 1977), and Boston University (Boston, MA; 1978). In addition, institutions and organizations recognized Nevelson with prizes including: Grand Prize for work in the Art USA exhibition at the New York Coliseum (1959); the Logan Award for work shown in the 63rd American Exhibition from The Art Institute of Chicago (1960); the MacDowell Colony Medal (1969); the Brandeis University Creative Arts Award in Sculpture (1971); the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (1971); and the President’s Medal of the Municipal Art Society of New York (1979). Louise Nevelson’s work can be found internationally in over eighty public museum, university, corporate, and municipal collections including: The Art Institute of Chicago; The Art Museum, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ); The Brooklyn Museum; The Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC); the William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum (Rockland, ME); the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino (Turin, Italy); the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo, Japan); the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, DC); the Israel Museum (Jerusalem, Israel); the Julliard School of Music at Lincoln Center (New York, NY); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebæk, Denmark); The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY); The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal, Canada); the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, France); The Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY); the City of New York; the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller (Otterlo, Netherlands); the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Edinburgh, Scotland); the City of Scottsdale, Arizona; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY); the Storm King Art Center and Sculpture Park (Mountainville. NY); the Tate Gallery (London, England); the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN); and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY). Louise Nevelson: Sculpture of the ‘50s and ‘60s coincides with the world premiere of The Occupant, Edward Albee’s new play based on Nevelson’s life starring Anne Bancroft now playing off-Broadway. Images are available upon request and materials are provided in cooperation with the Estate of Louise Nevelson and Jeffrey Hoffeld & Co.



Robert C. Morgan

2002. PaceWildenstein. Paperback

42 pages: 19 color illustrations; 11 ¾ x 9 inches



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