Louise Nevelson is one of America's foremost artists. Nevelson's sculpted wood assemblages transcended space and transformed the viewer's perception of art. For her brilliant compositions in varied mediums critics hailed her as the leading sculptor of the twentieth century. A pioneering grand dame of the art world, Nevelson's iconic persona was characterized by her skilled mixing and matching of clothing, mink eyelashes, and especially her charismatic presence. Her work can be found in major museums and esteemed private collections worldwide.
Courtesy of The Louise Nevelson Foundation
February 26, 2015
By: Roberta Smith
The sculptor Louise Nevelson took up a fair amount of space in New York in the 1960s and early ’70s. She was one of the most prominent artists of her generation, known for her imperious personality and a penchant for false eyelashes, heavy jewelry and chinchilla capes. More important were her forward-looking wood reliefs, painted entirely black or white, which linked the found-object aesthetic of assemblage to the clean lines and orderly sequences of Minimalism (and also presaged the all-black assemblage sculptures of Rashid Johnson). But by the time she died at age 88 in 1988, the art world had moved on.
This exhibition offers an excellent chance to revisit Nevelson’s achievement. The first large show of her work in New York in six years, it spans 1956 to 1985 and is especially strong in her rarely seen early collages and uncharacteristic late works. Including only three of the signature black reliefs among its 27 pieces, this presentation imbues Nevelson’s sensibility with new breadth.
Here she is less the high priestess of black than a restless, searching artist, improvising with an intuitive flair similar to Robert Rauschenberg’s. Asymmetrical compositions are numerous, as are irregular timeworn scraps of discarded metal and furniture. In the more classical early collages, she evokes European purist abstraction and segues to assemblage by replacing paper with crisp planes of wood and cardboard.
In the catalog, Germano Celant, the longtime champion of the postwar Italian aesthetic Arte Povera, writes astutely about the centrality of collage to a Modernist aesthetic. He does not explicitly link Nevelson to Arte Povera, but his mere presence implies the connection, which makes the show even more interesting.
The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut
The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York
Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, California
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
The Museum of Modern Art, Toyama, Japan
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York
Tate Gallery, London, England
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York