Night Personage Presence 1968, Painted wood construction 95 x 36 x 9 in.

Night Personage Presence

1968, Painted wood construction
95 x 36 x 9 in.

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson is known for her assemblages made from found and recycled bits and pieces of wood, Cor-Ten and plastic which she painted monochrome black, white, and, at times, gold. While her work displays Cubist, Constructivist, and Abstract Expressionist influences, her personal style is distinctive. The non-figurative sculptures feel monumental and range from small tabletop objects, to altar-like wall works, and freestanding outdoor installations.

Night Personage Presence, from 1968, is one of Nevelson’s large wooden wall constructions and is painted a uniform black. It is typical of the wall pieces in its modular character with tightly assembled rectangular and square boxes full of wooden objects. The consistent flat color draws attention to the play of light and shadow as they form and change around the oddly shaped pieces of wood. The combinations of geometric abstractions seem to suggest specific forms but never quite escape ambiguity. The hinged doors of Night Personage Presence suggest that we are looking in on something private, perhaps a space that was meant to be closed. And yet the doors are always open, always inviting us to stay and peer into a wonderful cabinet of curiosities.

Andrea K. Scott wrote in the New York Times: “Nevelson earned her place in art history, somewhere between the totemic structures of David Smith and the emotionalism of Eva Hesse, with mysterious abstract assemblages made from street-salvaged remnants of wood: baseball bats, milk crates, driftwood, picture frames, toolboxes, toilet seats, newel posts and gingerbread carvings. Her grand — even grandiose — oeuvre recycles themes of royalty, mortality, marriage, displacement and the tension between interior and exterior space.”

Louise Nevelson (née Leah Beliowsky, 1899 - 1985) was born in Kiev. Her family immigrated to Rockport, Maine in 1905 where her father ran a lumberyard. After marrying a shipping executive and moving to New York City, Nevelson trained at the Art Students League with Kenneth Hayes Miller, studied with Hans Hoffman in Munich, and painted murals with Diego Rivera. Nevelson taught art classes in the Works Progress Administration between 1935 and 1939 and it was not until 1941 that she had her first solo exhibition was at the Nierendorf Gallery in New York City. An exuberant presence with a prodigious career, Nevelson stands as a pioneering figure in the development of sculptural assemblages and installations. Her works are in major private and public collections in the United States and abroad.