Louise Nevelson: I don't remember when I was first attracted to Louise Nevelson's sculptures, but I recall they reminded me of printers' job cases.
Louise Nevelson was the daughter of a woodcutter / junkyard owner in the Ukraine. They moved to the USA before World War I.
Wikipedia notes that "Nevelson's first experience of art was at the age of nine at the Rockland [Maine] Public Library, where she saw a plaster cast of Joan of Arc. She then decided to study art, taking drawing in high school. She painted watercolor interiors, in which furniture appeared molecular in structure, rather like her later professional work. Female figures made frequent appearances.
She graduated from high school in 1918 and began working at a local law office. There she met Bernard and Charles Nevelson, co-owners of a shipping business. Charles and Louise Nevelson were wed in June 1920 in Boston.
Having satisfied her parent's hope that she would marry into a wealthy family, she and her new husband moved to New York City, where, despite the disapproval of her parents-in-law, she began to study painting, drawing, singing, acting and dancing.
She later left her family to pursue her art, heading to Germany to become a student of Hans Hofmann. She also worked as an assistant to [and had an affair with] to Diego Rivera.
In the 1940’s, Nevelson began collecting wood objects of all types and putting them together in unusual and innovative ways. In 1957, a box of liquor she received for Christmas, with all its interior partitions gave her the idea to put her assemblages into boxes. Her sculptures were usually painted, black or sometimes white.
Her works were once described by art historian Robert Rosenblum as being "junkyards of secular carpentry (transformed) into almost sacred altarpieces where light and shadow reign"
When Nevelson was developing her style she decided to go exploring for inspiration and found it in wooden pieces ~ cast-off scraps, pieces found in the streets of New York.. Nevelson's most notable sculptures are her walls; wooden, wall-like collage driven reliefs consisting of multiple boxes and compartments that hold abstract shapes and found objects from chair legs to balusters. Nevelson took found objects and by spray painting them she disguised them of their actual use or meaning. Nevelson called herself "the original recycler", and credited Pablo Picasso for "giving us the cube" that served as the groundwork for her cubist-style sculpture. She found strong influence in cubist ideals, calling the Cubist movement as "one of the greatest awarenesses of the human mind."
She also found influence in Native American and Mayan art, dreams, the cosmos and archetypes.
Although her first New York show was in 1941, the exhibition that established Nevelson’s reputation as an important artist was in 1958, when she was nearly sixty. Moon Gardens + One, in which she exhibited a black wood environment prompted the chief curator at the Museum of Modern Art to include Nevelson in the 1959, Sixteen Americans show at MoMA, for which Nevelson created her famous work, Dawn’s Wedding Feast.
In 1973 the Walker Art Center curated a major exhibition of her work. During the last half of her life, Nevelson solidified her fame and her persona, cultivating a personal style for her "petite yet flamboyant" self that contributed to her legacy: dramatic dresses, scarves and large false eyelashes made from mink fur. Nevelson died on April 17, 1988.