press release

The Heckscher Museum of Art kicks off a national tour of Louise Nevelson: Selections from the Farnsworth Art Museumon February 8. Featuring about forty works by this "doyenne of American sculpture," the exhibition offers rarely seen early paintings and etchings, intimate terracotta pieces, and the large-scale wooden sculpture for which she is known.

Nevelson (1899-1988) was born in Tsarist Russia, but settled with her parents in Rockland, Maine, when she was six. As a child, her artistic abilities were praised in school, and as a young adult the budding artist attained full confidence in her talents. In 1920, newly married, she moved to New York and immersed herself in both the visual and performing arts, studying acting and dance in addition to painting and sculpture.

The influences on her art were diverse and eclectic. One of her earliest teachers was the urban realist Kenneth Hayes Miller with whom she studied at the Art Students League from 1928 to 1930. In 1931, Nevelson left New York (and her husband) to study with the modernist painter Hans Hofmann in Munich, Germany. Although Hofmann soon left for New York due to the political situation in his homeland, Nevelson stayed in Europe for some time, working as a movie extra in Berlin and Vienna. On her return, she resumed her studies with Hofmann, who introduced her to Cubism, which was to have a lasting effect on her work. Immersed in the New York art world, Nevelson also drew inspiration from Surrealism, as well as Native American, African, and pre-Columbian art.

Among her early paintings on view will be Maine Meadows, Old County Road, 1931, a lyrical landscape created just before she left for Munich. Nevelson is best known for her large assemblages of wood, featuring small found objects - often picked up off the street in the city - mounted onto a larger wooden frame, as in Dawn Column I, 1959. By painting the sculpture all one color - often black or white - Nevelson achieves a formal unity, emphasizing the play of shapes and negative and positive space.

Louise Nevelson: Selections from the Farnsworth Art Museum runs through April 13. With Out of the Shadows: Helen Torr, A Retrospective, the exhibits form a powerhouse duo of women artists.

Louise Nevelson
Selections from the Farnsworth Art Museum