Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) first staggered the art world with her black, massive assemblages of shadow boxes filled with a vast array of wood shapes and found objects. Then she engulfed her viewers in worlds of white: a room painted stark white, heavily-appliqued white columns hanging from the white ceiling, tall, wood reliefs standing eerily, like ghosts poised silently on white boxes. Following were her enormous shadow boxes of gilt paint. Black, white or gold, Nevelson’s “walls” invited the viewer to enter the magic play of shadow and light. These powerful, energetic, startling collages, grounded in cubism, competed only with the physical presence of the artist, herself a spectacular living collage of rich fabric and bold jewelry.
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, and growing up in Rockland, Maine, Nevelson believed she was born to art, but it was a long and arduous journey to achieving recognition and acceptance of her art form. The ride was often fraught with self-imposed detours and snubs from the art community. When New York’s Museum of Modern Art opened its 1959 exhibition, Sixteen Americans, 60-year-old Louise Nevelson was sharing the limelight with artists a generation younger than she. Eight more years passed before the artist received a retrospective for her astonishing career and was celebrated as “Sculpture’s Queen Bee.” In 1985 at the age of 85 Nevelson received the National Medal of Arts from President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Louise Nevelson, whose wood and steel sculpture can be found in museums, sculpture gardens, and public spaces throughout the United States, worked in a white-male-dominated art world, but she never conformed to the notion that the gender of the creator predetermines the productivity or the style and size of the art.
Annette Baldwin’s portrayal of Louise Nevelson brings to life this daring and often outrageous artist, who committed herself totally and passionately to her work.