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Louise Nevelson (1899-1988)

Louise Nevelson is one of America’s foremost artists, Nevelson’s sculpted wood assemblages transcended space and transformed the viewer’s perception of art. During the 1950s, she began to create unique arrangements contained in wooden frames amassed from a range of found objects—usually woodcuts or bits of furniture—that were then painted a uniform black, white, or gold, as seen in her seminal work Royal Tide I (1960). Louise Nevelson emerged in the art world amidst the dominance of the Abstract Expressionist movement. In her most iconic works, she utilized wooden objects that she gathered from urban debris piles to create her monumental installations – a process clearly influenced by the precedent of Marcel Duchamp’s found object sculptures and “ready-mades.”

Nevelson’s prints share with her sculpture an interest in silhouetted forms and the layering of elements, but distinguish themselves by their vivid color, depth and movement. Louise Nevelson experimented in several different print mediums. A 1963 Ford Foundation grant enabled June Wayne of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Los Angeles, to extend an invitation to Nevelson. This initial collaboration led to twenty-six lithographs, mostly black with dark blue or red, which combined hand-drawn elements with printed lace. Nevelson returned to Tamarind in 1967 to complete sixteen large scale lithographs know as Double Imagery. In these lithographs, Nevelson played with landscapes of shadows and reflections using irregular shaped papers and a limited palette of black, red, grey and blue.

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 works, Nevelson’s iconic persona was characterized by her skilled mixing and matching of ethnic clothing, mink eyelashes and especially her charismatic presence. Born Leah Berliawsky on September 23, 1899 in Pereyaslav, Russian Empire (now Ukraine). Her family emigrated to the United States a few years after her birth, Nevelson moved to New York in 1920, and enrolled in the Art Students League in 1929. She went on to study with Hans Hofmann and worked as an assistant for Diego Rivera before her first solo at Nierendorf Gallery in 1941. Today, her works are held in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, among others.