From 16 February, Cortesi Gallery, Lugano, plays host to a selection of 29 pieces from the late Louise Nevelson (1889-1988), spanning two decades from the 1960s to 1980s. Curated by Bruno Corà – and accompanied by a critical essay – audiences are given the chance to experience a visual timeline of the Ukraine-born sculptor, including works realised towards the end of her life.
Having emigrated to the US in the early 20th century, Nevelson became a figurehead for feminist art: monochromatic assemblages represented an icon for power, virility and a bold, unrelenting presence. Immense constructions incorporated mundane pieces of furniture, including table legs and balustrades, turning the misuse of everyday society into alluring and compelling outdoor structures and indoor wall pieces. Widely recognised as one of the most important cultural figures of the 1900s, she has been exhibited alongside Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns at some of the most prestigious international galleries including The Guggenheim, New York, The Centre Pompidou, Paris, and MoMA, New York.
Having risen to fame in the era of Abstract Expressionism, cubism acted as a huge influence for the figure, especially during research trips around Europe. In extension to this, credits and inspiration came in the form of Pablo Picasso and mentor Hans Hoffman. Flitting somewhere between these icons and the entrance of New Dadaism, the stories of found and recycled pieces of wood and metal acted as peripatetic objects, each bearing a narrative to be taken and reformed as an elusive, matt black shadows within a larger piece. Reflecting a transient childhood, in which identity was under massive amounts of scrutiny, unique and at times overbearing artworks provide sense in the vast amount of influences.
Simultaneously chaotic and cathartic, the structures encompass a new and unique style, combining minimalist qualities with a monochrome finish, mainly black but expanding to gold and white towards the end of her career, that draw viewers’ focus towards the bare shapes of objects. Shadows are created in menacing flat tones, purveying complex themes such as in The Bride, which seemingly refers to an experience with wedlock which threatened her independence.
Louise Nevelson: Assemblages and Collages, 16 February – 7 April, Cortesi Gallery, Lugano. For more information: www.cortesigallery.com
1. Louise Nevelson, Untitled, 1976 ca., wood painted black, 243.8×122 cm, photo by A.Zambianchi, courtesy Cortesi Gallery London – Lugano.