Louise Nevelson


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(b Kiev, 23 Sept. 1899; d New York, 17 Apr. 1988).

Russian-born American sculptor, painter, and printmaker. Her family emigrated to the USA in 1905 and she settled in New York in 1920. Her serious study of art began at the Art Students League in 1929–30 and she then studied under Hans Hofmann in Munich. In 1932–3 she worked with Ben Shahn as assistant to Diego Rivera on his frescos in New York. She started to make sculpture in 1932 and in 1944 began experimenting with abstract wooden assemblages. It was towards the end of the 1950s that she began the ‘sculptured walls’ for which she became internationally famous. These are wall-like reliefs made up of many boxes and compartments into which abstract shapes are assembled together with commonplace objects such as chair legs, bits of balustrades, and other ‘found objects’ (An American Tribute to the British People, 1960–4, Tate, London). These constructions, painted a uniform black, or later in her career white or gold, won her a reputation as a leader in both assemblage and environment sculpture. They have great formal elegance, but also a strange ritualistic power. In the late 1960s she started working in a wider variety of materials and also began to receive commissions for large open-air and environmental sculptures, which she executed in aluminium or steel.

Subjects: Art.

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