1899-1988 | Russian-American
Volcanic Magic I
Wood, paper and metal collage
Signed and dated “Nevelson ‘85” (lower center)
Louise Nevelson stands as one of the most innovative and important sculptors of the 20th century. With her highly recognizable, monochromatic wooden wall collages, she pioneered assemblage and installation art. By carefully placing 3-dimensional found materials on a flat plane and employing a thoughtfully limited color palette, Nevelson’s works walk an intriguing line between sculpture and painting. Her clear point of view propelled her career for some 60 years, and this work, from her famed Volcanic Magic series, represents Nevelson at her most creative and uninhibited.
The present work, entitled Volcanic Magic I, comes from one of the final series Nevelson worked on, and it signifies the artist’s need to continue experimenting even late in her career. Created just three years before Nevelson’s death, the collage demonstrates her remarkable ability to recycle and reinvent her own tropes. It includes some of the most quintessential of the artist’s motifs and materials, including found objects and contrasting textures, but it differs from her earlier work in its approach to color. Matte, uniform color was a trademark of Nevelson’s earlier works; however, her Volcanic Magic series leaves the surface of her found objects in a more natural state, creating a gradation of color on the board. In this way, each element of the composition possesses a sense of individuality in a bold departure from the defining uniformity of her earlier work.
Nevelson was born in 1899 in czarist Russia, but her family emigrated to the small, coastal town of Rockland, Maine, when she was a child. Her father owned a lumberyard where Nevelson grew up playing with scraps and wood, and she began taking art classes as a teenager. At the age of 20, she married and moved to New York, where she was drawn into the city’s vibrant artistic community. After her marriage ended, she studied with abstract painter Hans Hofmann in Munich, who introduced her to Cubism and collage.
She began creating her signature abstract assemblages in the 1950s, which bulleted her to the forefront of mid-century New York’s gallery system. She participated in the pioneering Sixteen Americans group show at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1959–60 and was showcased at the prestigious Venice Biennale of 1962. Today, Nevelson’s works belong to important modern art collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Guggenheim (New York) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.), among others.
Created in 1985
Board: 39 3/4" high x 31 3/4" wide
Frame: 41 1/2" high x 33 5/8" wide