Louise Nevelson

(1899 Kiev, Ukraine – 1988 New York City, USA)

Louise Nevelson was an American sculptor best known for her monochromatic wooden assemblages.


Born in 1899 in Kiev (included in the Russian Empire at the time), her family migrated to the United States in the early 20th century and settled in Rockland, Maine. By 1920, she had moved to New York City, where she enrolled at the Art Students League. Throughout the 1930s, Nevelson travelled across Europe and briefly attended Hans Hoffman’s school in Munich, returning to New York in 1932 to work as an assistant for Diego Riviera.


Nevelson participated in several group shows during the 1930s, the first of which was organised by the Secession Gallery and held at the Brooklyn Museum in 1935. She received her first one-person exhibition at the Nierendof Gallery, New York, in 1941. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, Nevelson had travelled to Guatemala and Mexico to view pre-Columbian art and began to produce a series of wood landscape sculptures. 


Her first black monochrome sculptures introduced her personal visual language that would characterise much of her work from the mid-1950s onward. Nevelson’s compositions explore the relational possibilities of sculpture and space, summing up the objectification of the external world into a personal landscape.

Although her practice is situated in lineage with Picasso’s Cubism and Vladimir Taitlin’s Constructivism, the pictorial attitude of her work and her interest in the transcendence of object and space reveal an affinity with Abstract Expressionism. 


In 1959, Nevelson participated in her first important museum exhibition, "Sixteen Americansat the Museum of Modern Art", New York. She was included in the Venice Biennale in 1962 and her first major museum retrospective took place in 1967 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 

During the following decades, Nevelson exhibited widely throughout the major art centres of the world and received many public commissions.

To commemorate her work, the Louise Nevelson Plaza in Lower Manhattan, an entire outdoor garden of her metal collages, was established in 1978.


Nevelson died in her home in 1988, retaining her reputation as one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century.