Louise Nevelson….Independent and Innovative

Happy New Year Cafe visitors! Sorry to be a little late but only realized last night that the first Wednesday was 2 Jan. In that vein, I decided to re-visit one of my favorite artist. I have long admired Louise Nevelson’s work…..and more than once wondered if I could re-recreate this style in my art quilts.

There is both a hard edge and soft organic shapes in her work that appeals to me. Her work is truly timeless…but enough of my admiration….let’s take a look at Louise and her work.

Nevelson is known for her abstract expressionist “boxes” grouped together to form a new creation. She used found objects or everyday discarded things in her “assemblages” or assemblies, one of which was three stories high: ”When you put together things that other people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life – a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created.”


Untitled 1950

Born In1899 in the Ukraine, Nevelson came to the US in 1905. Her father was a timber merchant and reports suggest that Louise, then known as Leah, played with timber as a young girl….deciding to be a sculptor at age ten. A girl who knew her destiny while many of us were still trying to master playground politics.

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Night Zag III 1971

In 1931 and 1932, she studies with Hans Hofmann becoming deeply influenced by surrealism and collage. The next 15 years brought an incredible period of productive as she developed her collage work made of wood scraps. Both sophisticated and haunting, this work cemented her place as one of America’s foremost sculptors.

Night Leaf 1969

My admiration for her work is heightened her incredible public persona. Always dressed to the nines, occasionally bordering on costume, and her trademark false eyelashes long before Tammy Faye Baker, she remained dedicated to her craft. Producing an amazing body of work, her influence on artist today is still evident.

All of her children became artist, carrying on a commitment to a life of creating. I would like to think Louise is looking down as a gentle critic and at the same time a taskmaster of get to the work.


Sky Cathedral

This last work is one of my personal favorites. For me it is indicative of a woman truly of her time and ours….a legacy worth honoring.


6 Responses to “Louise Nevelson….Independent and Innovative”

  1. 1 Peg keeney January 7, 2008 at 7:04 am

    I love seeing and reading these comments. One of my favorite works in the Detroit Inistitute of Arts is her work….”Homage tothe World” I visit it evry time I go there. Two weeks ago I saw “Mirrow Inage I” in Huston and I was facinated by her use of scale and shape
    warm regards

  2. 2 joanell connolly January 6, 2008 at 8:29 am

    There is currently an exhibition of her work at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend

    October 27, 2007 — January 13, 2008

    The show was wonderful and went on and on.


  3. 3 Olga January 3, 2008 at 9:26 am

    I too have long been an admirer of Louse Nevelson’s work, but did not know about her work with cast paper. Thank you for that introduction. Another sculptor whose paper pieces you might like is Anthony Caro: http://www.anthonycaro.org/frames-related/Gallery.htm

    I agree about the power of the monochrome. It is work like this that keeps nagging at me to try working with a more and more limited palette. One of these days, ….

  4. 4 gabrielleswain January 3, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Hi Terry and Eileen, I was in such a dither when I realized that my post was due yesterday that I forgot to sign it. I am delighted to find you both also admire Louise. Her work is so elegant and yes, Terry, I always slap my forehead with the “Why didn’t I think of that?”
    Eileen, the monochromatic aspect of her work is amazing to me….how she accomplishes such depth with her palette is stunning. Living to the age of 88, she was still working well beyond the time when many artist are resting on their laurels.

    I remember seeing her interviewed on tv in the 1960’s. What a great lady. I always had hopes of running into her somewhere and going for lunch. I just knew we would have had a great time.

    Glad you enjoyed remembering Louise.

  5. 5 eileen doughty January 3, 2008 at 5:24 am

    There are many facets of her work I find fascinating, most of all the monochromatic treatment which makes the art all about the shapes, and the interesting use of negative space.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find one of her pieces, “Dawnscape”, in a recent exhibit at The Textile Museum in Washington, DC. It is white and made of handmade/cast paper pulp, relatively low relief, almost hieroglyphic in composition. Google images will turn up many websites that show it.

  6. 6 terrygrant January 2, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks, to whoever wrote this–Gabrielle? I so love Louise Nevelson’s work. Isn’t it so accessible and something about which we all think, “I wish I had done that–I could have done that!”? There are two of her pieces in the permanent collection at the Portland Art Museum, one black and one white. I visit them each time I visit the museum, just to renew my memory of them. The last time I was there a very imperious looking woman was standing in front of the black piece and was sniffing and snorting, “It’s scraps of wood! They call this ART??” Poor woman. If you can’t love a Louise Nevelson, I think you must not love much.

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