Portrait of Louise Nevelson, 1980, Photography by Lynn Gilbert © Lynn Gilbert


Louise Nevelson Foundation Announces Official Collateral Event at La Biennale di Venezia

Published Friday, Mar 4, 2022

The Louise Nevelson Foundation is pleased to announce a landmark presentation of the celebrated American artist’s work in the historic rooms of the Procuratie Vecchie in Venice’s Piazza San Marco. An official Collateral Event of the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, the exhibition, titled Louise Nevelson. Persistence, will mark the 60th anniversary of Nevelson’s representation of the United States in the American Pavilion at the Biennale Arte in 1962.

The presentation, which will include more than 60 works created by Nevelson between the 1950s and the 1980s, is curated by Julia Bryan-Wilson, professor of modern and contemporary art at the University of California, Berkeley. A leading expert on the artist’s work, Bryan-Wilson will publish a monographic book on Nevelson with Yale University Press in 2023. The exhibition, which spans nine rooms on the second floor of the Procuratie Vecchie overlooking Piazza San Marco, will feature the artist’s monumental painted sculptures alongside little-known examples of her important collages, exemplifying Nevelson’s distinctive approach to abstraction and assemblage. Drawing formal and conceptual connections among the artist’s works and between various periods of her career, this presentation will be the first major show of Nevelson’s work in Italy since 2013.

For the first time in the building’s 500 year history, a large part of the Procuratie Vecchie will be made accessible to the public, following a multi-year restoration of the building led by David Chipperfield Architects Milan, which has also served as an advisor for the exhibition. The design of the presentation has been developed with Venetian firm Torsello Architettura and will reflect and amplify David Chipperfield Architects Milan’s unique vision for the site, one of the most iconic and recognizable buildings in Venice.

The exhibition will showcase Nevelson’s iconic, large-scale black sculptures in painted wood, including highlights from numerous important bodies of work spanning the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The exhibition will also have examples of her painted white sculpture, including the multi-part columnar installation Dawn’s Presence—Three (1975), as well as works in gold, such as The Golden Pearl (1962). The exhibition highlights the relationship between Nevelson’s work as a sculptor and her lifelong practice of creating wall-based assemblage and collage. Nevelson’s collages and sculptural assemblages are presented in dialogue with the artist’s large-scale work, shedding light on the underpinnings of her artistic process—which the Italian art critic Carla Lonzi described as one of “destruction and transfiguration”—as well as her interest in unconventional materials like raw wood and metal, cardboard, sandpaper, and metallic foil.

Born in Pereiaslav, Ukraine near Kiev in 1899, Nevelson immigrated to the United States with her family in 1905, settling in Maine. After moving to New York in 1920, Nevelson studied at the Art Students League. In the 1930s, she worked as Diego Rivera’s assistant, and she later taught art with the Works Progress Administration. Nevelson had her first solo exhibition with Nierendorf Gallery in New York in 1941. In the early 1950s she traveled to Guatemala and Mexico to visit pre-Columbian artworks—following these trips, she began creating her first wood sculptures.

Over the course of the next four decades, Nevelson would become one of the most pioneering modern artists in the US. She is famed for her large-scale monochromatic wooden sculptures that often feature multifarious, abstracted elements situated in frame-like compartments. Deeply engaged with the legacies of Cubism and Constructivism, Nevelson’s artworks incorporate unexpected combinations of materials and forms. She produced her assemblages, collages, and jewelry pieces in connection with her sculptures, and all the artist’s works reflect her tireless experimentation with materiality, shape, and space.

Nevelson’s legacy looms large throughout the Nevelson Foundation as well as the museums and outdoor public spaces of major American cities, especially New York. A group of her large-scale steel sculptures are on permanent display in Louise Nevelson Plaza in the city’s Financial District, cultivating an immersive outdoor environment that engages with the surrounding benches, trees, and pavers. Nine wall-mounted sculptures by the artist are situated in Nevelson’s Chapel of the Good Shepherd in Saint Peter’s Church in Midtown Manhattan, where she also designed the sanctuary lamp and vestments to devise a total indoor environment that she termed an “oasis.”

Today, Nevelson’s work can be found in the collections of every major American museum, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Nevelson’s work is also strongly represented in European museum collections, including at Tate, London; the Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and numerous other international institutions.

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