Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sky Sentinels

Sky Sentinels, 1976
Louise Nevelson
University of Chicago
Smart Museum of Art
5550 South Greenwood Avenue

            Born in Kiev in 1899, Leah Berliawsky emigrated with her family from Russia to Maine in 1905. A cousin helped the family to Anglicize their names, thus she became Louise, and she later married wealthy businessman Charles Nevelson and settled in New York City. In addition to studying at the Art Students League, in 1931 she traveled to Munich to work with legendary teacher, painter and catalyst of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Hans Hofmann. Famous for his emphasis on the “push and pull” necessary to create a balanced abstract composition, Hofmann’s influence helped Nevelson to find her signature style, characterized by the use of found objects and architectural elements, joined together into a grid-like formation and painted a uniform color, typically black but sometimes white or gold. While her wooden wall pieces are usually displayed indoors, this work demonstrates her ability to translate her approach into an outdoor work, utilizing pieces of scrap and cut aluminum, welded together and given a monochromatic finish. The Madison Plaza Building in the Loop once featured another outdoor Nevelson piece, but it has since been moved into the lobby and photography is not allowed. 

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