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Art HERstory: Louise Nevelson


Art HERstory: Louise Nevelson

Art HERstory: Louise Nevelson

A common belief is that we are all born as blank slates. We learn what we like, how to act, and whats appropriate from our environment. Fortunately for some, predestination takes control of the wheel of fate and steers them down the right path from the beginning. Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) always knew what she was supposed to do. She had no doubt or hesitance when it came to her purpose in life. I wish I had her confidence, it would’ve saved me a ton of money and time in college.

“I never for one minute questioned what I had to do. I did not think for one minute I didn’t have what I had. It just didn’t dawn on me. And so if you know what you have, then you know that there’s nobody on earth that can affect you.” -Louise Nevelson

Louise spent the leisure time in high school drawing and painting. Upon graduation she immediately entered the Art Studies League in New York City to study drawing, painting, dramatics, and dance. After a 13 year marriage and the birth of a child, she packed her belongings, took her son to her parents in Maine, and moved to Munich, Germany to continue her studies.

'Night Leaf' (1969-74). Nope, this one isn't wood. The leaves are actually opaque, black plexiglass.

'Night Leaf' (1969-74). Nope, this one isn't wood. The leaves are actually opaque, black plexiglass.

Time in Germany helped to developLouise’s art skills. She remained there six months studying with Hans Hofmann until Nazi forces closed the art school she attended.

'Ice Palace I'. Despite its icy appearance, the palace is actually a series of plexiglass panels. I must admit, the sculpture does look like its constructed of ice blocks.

'Ice Palace I'. Despite its icy appearance, the palace is actually a series of plexiglass panels. I must admit, the sculpture does look like its constructed of ice blocks.

New York City became Louise’s home once again in 1937. To make ends meet she taught at the Educational Alliance Art School as part of a Works Progress Administration funded program. Through all the changes, she never stopped creating.

'Luminous Zag: Night' (1971). To construct this piece, Louise filled 105 units with rows of zig-zag wooden beams. This is also a massive creation mesauring 10 feet x 16 feet 1 inch x 10 3/4 inches.

'Luminous Zag: Night' (1971). To construct this piece, Louise filled 105 units with rows of zig-zag wooden beams. This is also a massive creation measuring 10 feet x 16 feet 1 inch x 10 3/4 inches.

The big break came in 1941. Louise’s first solo exhibition was held in New York City that year. People were given the privilege of admiring her massive assemblages and sculptures. Many of the sculptures featured were made from wood, terracotta, bronze, and plaster and shared characteristics of Central American art.

'Sky Cathedral' (1951). A painted wood assemblage featuring wooden fragments. The sculpture is one of the most well known and measures 115" high x 135" wide x 20" deep!

'Sky Cathedral' (1951). A painted wood assemblage featuring wooden fragments. The sculpture is one of the most well known and measures 115" high x 135" wide x 20" deep!

By the 1950s Louise was in the big leagues. Her career was steadily picking up steam and she began to earn recognition. Her predestination had reached its peak! Her well knows works came from this time frame and consisted of open face blocks assembled to make free standing pieces. She even constructed a piece that stood three stories high!

'Royal Tide I' (1960). Believe it or not, this sculpture is painted wood. It almost looks completely bronze!

'Royal Tide I' (1960). Believe it or not, this sculpture is painted wood. It almost looks completely bronze!

At the end of the 50s, major museums began to purchase and permanently display Louise’s work. In the following decades she became recognized as one of the top sculptors for the second half of the 20th century.

'Case with Five Balusters' (1959). This piece is from the 'Dawn's Wedding Feast' collection that featured the majority of Louise's white sculptures.

'Case with Five Balusters' (1959). This piece is from the 'Dawn's Wedding Feast' collection that featured the majority of Louise's white sculptures.

Louise Nevelson continued to create and display assemblages until her death at the age of 89. In recognition of her legacy, the United States government issued special commemorative stamps in 2000. New York City also honored Louise by naming a plaza after her in downtown Manhattan.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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