Louise Nevelson (1899–1988) described her work as existing in “the in-between place”—somewhere between painting and sculpture, demonstrating stylistic influences from both Cubism (structure, form, and monochromatic palette) and Abstract Expressionism (movement, presence, and large-scale compositions). Using an array of found wood materials, arranged and painted in monochrome, Nevelson’s work appears to transform shadow into solid shape. This exhibition takes Nevelson as a point of inspiration and further explores the visual and historical connections between her wooden sculpture Untitled (ca. 1976–78) and other works from the Kemper Museum Permanent Collection.
Early in her career, Nevelson was a student of Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann (1880–1966), who encouraged deep exploration of one’s desired medium. In 1959, Nevelson was part of a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York titled 16 Americans, which also featured Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, and Ellsworth Kelly. By including artists who were Nevelson’s influences and contemporaries throughout her decades-long career, this exhibition lifts up the visual, historical, and community correlations among them.
Deconstructing Louise Nevelson is the third in a series of exhibitions—following Deconstructing Francis Bacon (2013) and Deconstructing Robert Mangold (2015)—that focus on the style, themes, and history of individual artists within the Kemper Museum Permanent Collection. The Deconstructing series provides opportunities for meditations on the interconnectedness of artists and works of art in the Permanent Collection.
This exhibition was co-curated by Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs at Kemper Museum, and Taylor Carr-Howard, Kemper Museum 2017–18 curatorial intern.