(1899 Kiev, Ukraine – 1988 New York City, USA)
Leah Berliawsky, known as Louise Nevelson (Pereyaslav-Kiev, 1899 – New York, 1988), was born near Kiev to a Jewish family and was forced to emigrate in 1905 to the United States because of anti-Semitic laws enacted in her country a few years earlier. She grew up in Rockland, Maine, then she moved to New York. Later on, she returned to Europe to study with Hans Hoffman. On her return to the United States, she worked first as an assistant to Diego Rivera and later as an art instructor in the Works Progress Administration. In 1941, her first solo exhibition was held, and in 1946, she was first invited to participate in the annual exhibition at the Whitney Museum, in which she took part several times.Her numerous exhibitions include her participation at the Venice Biennale in 1962, when she represented the United States. She also exhibited at the Jewish Museum, New York (1965, 2007), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1967, 1970, 1980, 1987, 1998), the Civic Gallery of Modern Art, Turin (1969), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1973), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1973), National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome (1976), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1986), Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (1994), Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Paris (1997), Rome Foundation Museum, Rome (2013) and Mediterranean Foundation in Catania (2013–2014). She also participated in collective exhibition suc as, Sixteen Americans, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1959–60), The Art of Assemblage, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1961), the Carnegie International (1958, 1961, 1964, 1970), and Documenta in Kassel (1964, 1968). Many of her works also form part of both private and institutional collections, as well as several public art installations in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia. Nevelson turned to collages from the mid-50s and these works clearly show the influence of Cubism, which she encountered during research trips in Europe. Realised on wooden or paper boards and in different dimensions, the collages reveal the artist’s attention to perspective, chromaticism, spontaneity of execution and compositional balance. To this first kind of artistic production, Nevelson added assemblages: in both cases, the works are realised by collecting scrape wood and metals bits found in the streets of New York. In her sculptures, it is possible to recognise everyday objects – from table and chair legs, to balustrade and more – that the artist re-uses with a sensibility that wavers between New Dada and Abstractionism, but that also looks back at pre-Columbian and Mesoamerican sculpture from which she became fascinated during a trip to Mexico in 1950. However, despite these many references, Nevelson’s art is extraordinarily original, making it impossible to be pigeonholed.