NEVELSON, LOUISE (1900–1988), U.S. sculptor and print-maker. Arriving in the United States in 1905, Nevelson grew up in Rockland, Maine. Her father owned a lumberyard, an important influence on her mature sculpture when Nevelson adopted wood as her most significant material. She took her husband's surname after her marriage in 1920, the same year that the couple moved to New York. Her artistic apprenticeship spanned several years, including private painting and drawing lessons with William *Meyerowitz and Theresa *Bernstein, followed by studies at the Art Students League (1928–31, 1933). Nevelson's drawings and canvases from this period are figurative and expressionistic in nature. In 1931, she studied in Munich with Hans Hoffman, where she became familiar with Cubism. In 1932, Nevelson, along with Ben *Shahn, assisted Diego Rivera with his Rockefeller Center mural.
Nevelson made her first sculpture in 1934, at which time she took a class at the Educational Alliance with Chaim *Gross. Working in terracotta, bronze, and plaster, Nevelson executed blocky, figurative sculptures. Under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration, she taught sculpture at the Educational Alliance in 1937. She exhibited paintings and sculpture influenced by Cubism and Surrealism at her first solo show, held at New York's Nierendorf Gallery in 1941. In the 1940s she began to make sculptural environments around themes, such as The Circus – The Clown Is the Center of His World at the Norlyst Gallery in New York (1943). Her sculptures grew increasingly abstract through the 1940s, influenced in part by non-Western art. In 1947 she also started making etchings, drypoints, and aquatints.
Around 1954, Nevelson began designing large wood, Cubist-inspired abstract constructions. In 1956, Nevelson made her first wall sculptures. The dramatic Moon Garden + One (1958) established Nevelson's reputation. Open-faced, stacked wood boxes filled with disparate found objects such as furniture legs, broom handles, spindles, and other wooden abstract shapes, covered the walls of the Grand Central Moderns Gallery. The installation, which included the enormous Sky Cathedral (Museum of Modern Art, New York), was painted
Subsequent reliefs retained a monochrome appearance, painted entirely in either black, white, or gold. The all-white installation Dawn's Wedding Feast appeared in 1959 at the Museum of Modern Art's "Sixteen Americans" exhibition, and gold sculptures showed at The Royal Tides exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery (1961).
Nevelson expanded her materials in the second half of the 1960s, creating sculptures out of aluminum, Plexiglas, and Cor-ten steel. In 1964 Nevelson made the Holocaust memorial Homage to 6000000 (private collection) using her iconic stacked boxes filled with wood collage elements. The first version was painted in black, but a second version, installed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 1965, was painted white. In the early 1970s Nevelson received several commissions, including sculptures for Temple Beth-El, Great Neck, New York (1970); Temple Israel, Boston (1973); and seven metal sculptures for the Louise Nevelson Plaza in Lower Manhattan (1979).
A.B. Glimcher, Louise Nevelson (1976); L. Nevelson, D awns and Dusks: Taped Conversations with Diana Mackown (1976); Louise Nevelson: Atmospheres and Environments (1980); J. Lipman, Nevelson's World (1983); L. Lisle, Louise Nevelson: A Passionate Life (1990).
[Samantha Baskind (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.