The Legend of Louise Nevelson

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In an interview with architecture American Architecture Now, Louise Nevelson, dressed in her typical artistic extravagance, speaks calmly and assuredly. “One of the most important things in your life is to claim yourself totally. You are born. You stand on your own two feet. You have a center, and that is your true heritage not a lot of other things”. Nevelson’s abstract expressionist assemblages convey formal balances, which she creates in unity with her true center the vibrations of the world around her. She was a very specific and extraordinary woman working at an extremely influential time. It was a convening of person, time and place that allowed for these works to come to us. Yes, any of us could collect wood, attach it to each other and paint it, but we didn’t. Even if we had, we wouldn’t have done it so beautifully. Unlike Louise Nevelson, we weren’t moved to. She saw the necessity for and beauty in this art at that time.

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In an interview with architecture American Architecture Now, Louise Nevelson, dressed in her typical artistic extravagance, speaks calmly and assuredly. “One of the most important things in your life is to claim yourself totally. You are born. You stand on your own two feet. You have a center, and that is your true heritage not a lot of other things”. Nevelson’s abstract expressionist assemblages convey formal balances, which she creates in unity with her true center the vibrations of the world around her. She was a very specific and extraordinary woman working at an extremely influential time. It was a convening of person, time and place that allowed for these works to come to us. Yes, any of us could collect wood, attach it to each other and paint it, but we didn’t. Even if we had, we wouldn’t have done it so beautifully. Unlike Louise Nevelson, we weren’t moved to. She saw the necessity for and beauty in this art at that time.

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She also divided objects up into blocks and frequently painted them black- calling out a reference to cubism and leading a way into minimalism. At the same time, each and every action was natural and necessary. Her choice to work in wood reflects the times and her careful, maternal mind. She was working as an abstract expressionist in a time when men, working mostly in metal, dominated the movement, but she didn’t want to go about this process of welding. She refused this option because her son was in the merchant marine and welding put her in the mindset of war. For her son and every son, she didn’t want to to partake in that action day to day. That was when she began using found objects. It was after the war, and materials were scarce but everywhere one looked, there were scraps. She said, “there seemed to be sculpture, so I just followed a natural path.” This natural path also sat within the context of another found-object artist, Marcel Duchamp. She paid tribute and worked along similar lines but also transformed pieces more than Duchamp. She deconstructed and created an order that she felt was more reflective of the times. In this way, she was an abstract expressionist.
Nevelson always focused on the end product. “Art is the essence of awareness,” she tells us. In larger assemblages, through paint and plane, the objects become one work of art; she transforms bits and pieces into something very satisfyingly unified and orderly. She knew what was needed after the war. In simpler pieces, she focuses us on the inherent symbolism that simple objects carry. These objects, such as the chairs which repeatedly found their way into her work and referred to as thrones, were presented through her eyes but never over explained. That is our job. Darkness and shadow are accentuated with black paint. They lead us to contemplate the spaces in between. We examine the space in which the forms inhabit, the space in which

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the assemblages were beget and the space in history where they stand.Living simplistically and nomadically to reduce costs, Nevelson stayed true to her work. Her sculptures eventually gained the attention of critics in New York. They marveled and praised but Nevelson still saw little interest from the public. She stayed steadfast and confident. A dealer once brought her attention to potential for higher better sales in Europe, but she decided to stay. She was aware of the role she and her art had to play in the unfolding of America.

Nevelson’s simultaneously straightforward yet symbolically-laden work candidly refuses forthright categorization. It is often considered an integral element of the link between the movements of Cubism, Assemblage Art, Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism. It fulfills quiet balances and urges contemplation. For her work and her influence, Louise Nevelson is widely recognized as one of America’s most important female artists.