Forty-three years after the first Louise Nevelson exhibition in Milan, the Marconi Foundation gallery will present a core body of about seventy of her works, including sculptures and collages, dating from 1955 until the late eighties. It was, in fact, in May 1973 at Studio Marconi in Milan that the first exhibition of the American artist’s work was held, at a time when she was still little known to the European public. After seeing some of her works at an exhibition in Paris, Giorgio Marconi met her in person in 1971 through the auspices of the Pace Gallery in New York and later visited her in her studio-home.
It was an assemblage of works created from leftover bits and pieces: Coca-Cola crates, table legs, timber offcuts, barrel slats, and so on. I spent a whole morning there: we talked about artworks, spaces, exhibitions, trips to Milan and a host of other subjects, as well as chatting about life in general…
(Giorgio Marconi, Autobiografia di una galleria, Skira 2004)
In this way a close collaboration began that lasted a number of years and resulted in several exhibitions organised in Italy and other countries. Nevelson was fascinated by Marcel Duchamp and other key figures of Dada and Surrealism: “Surrealism was in the art I breathed”, she said, recalling the years of her apprenticeship. Nevelson was also influenced by Picasso’s cubism, native North and Central America art, and, in particular, mural painting, after her experience working as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s assistant.
Nevelson’s is a sculptural language that immediately adheres to the wall, borrowing its abstract signs from painting. Monumentality, monochrome and the dislocation of planes on a shallow depth are distinctive features of her assemblages or “environments”. Nevelson gave the found objects that make up her abstract sculptures “a new spiritual life” different from their original one. She did this by subjecting them to a preparatory ritual, as though decontaminating them from the effects of the outside world.
A major figure in the renewal of sculpture and its transformations in the twentieth century, Louise Nevelson said of herself and her work: “I love putting things together.” The range of her art, however, cannot be confined solely to the category of assemblage. As an emblematic figure of twentieth-century art, Louise Nevelson distinguished herself in the international art scene through her search for a universal language.
I don’t know whether the label “sculptress” fits me. I make collages. I reconstruct the dismembered world into a new harmony.
This harmony is palpable in some of the works on display. Works such as the monumental 900 x 90 cmHomage to the Universe (1968), the product of a sculptured ceremony in which each element retains something of its past life, also Dawn’s Host (1959) and the series End of Day, which documents Nevelson’s predilection for the beginning and end of the day – dawn and dusk. Harmony also lies in the various-sized collages on wood or paper that demonstrate the artist’s constant attention to the immediacy of the creative act, the balance in composition, the perspective planes and chromatic relations. A volume devoted to Nelveson’s collages, containing an essay by Bruno Corà, will be published by Skira to mark the occasion.
The exhibition continues at the Studio Marconi ’65 where a selection of collages, multiples e graphic works will be on display.