One of the most important and innovative artists of the twentieth century, Louise Nevelson (1899–1988) redefined modern sculpture and influenced artists of subsequent generations with her avant-garde environmental installations. Her best-known works—found objects such as moldings, dowels, spindles, and furniture scraps assembled into wooden or steel box structures and entirely painted black, gold, or white—defied categorization in the 1950s, but undoubtedly paved the way for what would come to be called “installation art” by the 1970s. Inspired by Mayan ruins in Guatemala and Mexico, Nevelson’s “boxed-in” works eventually reached monumental proportions. Sky Cathedral, 1958, in the collection of MoMA and Sky Gate New York, 1978, installed at the World Trade Center, but destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, exemplify the impressive outsized installations she designed for indoor and outdoor spaces around the world. Irrespective of scale, Nevelson’s work continues to have a huge impact. Nearly thirty years after the artist’s death, her masterful use of dense weighty materials to create surprisingly airy studies of volume and light appears as strikingly fresh as ever.
Coinciding with Moderna Museet’s exhibition dedicated to Nevelson’s lesser-known collage oeuvre (September 9, 2017–January 14, 2018), McCabe Fine Art is proud to present a diverse selection of the artist’s late career works. Five black-painted wooden sculptures made between 1975–76 are prime examples of the artist’s mature style. Nailing and gluing salvaged wooden objects into boxy frames, Nevelson privileges form over function in rhythmic asymmetrical compositions. A final coat of black paint obscures her found materials’ useful origins while creating beautiful tonal contrasts as light and shadow play over the monochromatic three-dimensional surfaces. Like a virtuoso marble carving, Nevelson’s sculptures captivate with their subtle and stark shifts in tone and texture.
Also on view are four mounted collages from the 1970s and 1980s. Heavily influenced by Cubism, Nevelson began making collages in the 1950s. These late-career works mounted on board recall classical European abstraction with their combinations of found objects, paint, cardboard and fabric. In stark contrast to her monochrome sculptures, Nevelson’s collages appear delicate and spirited thanks to whimsical gold flourishes and touches of color.