Saturday, February 18, 2006

Modern Masters: Louise Nevelson

One of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) helped to pioneer the art of assemblage.

Born just before the turn of the century to Russian Jewish parents who emigrated to the United States,
Nevelson studied under Diego Rivera and by many accounts floundered until her 60's, when she began to create large-scale assemblage works in wood and metal. Her monochromatic works established her as a prominent figure in the environmental art movement of the 60's and 70's.

The later half of her life was unbelievably productive and rich. She worked in cast paper, cast resin, printmaking and colossal outdoor sculptures.

Her first major museum retrospective took place in 1967 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Princeton University commissioned Nevelson to create a monumental outdoor steel sculpture in 1969, the same year the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gave her a solo exhibition.

The book Dawns and Dusks, written by Diana MacKown, reads like a personal conversation with the master herself. It is truly fascinating and inspiring to learn how one person devoted every minute of every day to her work, and very little else.

In sharp contrast to the monochromatic nature of her work, Nevelson was a colorful character and made quite the entrance. With her flowing garments, tattered headwraps and heavily applied eyeliner, she was the embodiment of the flamboyant and eccentric artiste.

Louise Nevelson's original works now fetch millions and she is represented in the most important collections on the planet.

Her legacy to us embodies not only her moody, contemplative and powerful sculptures and prints, but her example that, oftentimes, the very last years can be the very best years of one's life.

An inspiration for all of us.


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