Work of the Week – Composition 1967 by Louise Nevelson

Monday, May 16, 2016

by Parker Louise Bobbitt


This week’s Work of the Week is Composition 1967, a photograph by Louise Nevelson.

The meaning of the phrase “seeing the world through rose-colored glasses” is understood as seeing the world idealistically because of the connotations we have with the color “rose.” In Louise Nevelson’s work, we see the world in a different color. Nevelson is known for her monumental collage-like wooden sculptures that she covers with a uniform coat of black paint.

Louise Nevelson’s Composition 1967 is a photographic work that demonstrates similar qualities to the sculptures for which she is famous. The monochromatic color and collaged construction make the objects undistinguishable. Visible throughout the photograph, wood grain and composition create a sense of the depth of Nevelson’s sculptural work.

As evidenced in Composition 1967 and her sculptures, Nevelson was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s found object “readymades” as well as Cubism. While her works do not fit into a specific art movement, Nevelson is famous for her unique approach to sculpture and photography.

Louise Nevelson was born in Russia 1899 as Louise Berliowsky. At five, she moved to Maine and later credited this move as a significant influence in leading her towards her artistic career. Beginning art lessons in 1920, Nevelson discovered her talent as an artist and later became an assistant to Diego Rivera in Mexico City. She soon gained recognition for her work as her signature style emerged. Predominantly Nevelson has painted her works black but throughout her career she has also worked in white and gold.

For Nevelson, black holds strong connotations. Black, Nevelson says, “means totality. It means: contains all… It wasn’t a negation of color. It was acceptance. Because black encompasses all colors. Black is the most aristocratic color of all… I have seen things that were transformed into black, that took on greatness. I don’t want to use a lesser word.” Of white, Nevelson says it is the only color that “summoned the early morning and emotional promise.” Her gold phase was inspired by the promises of “streets paved with gold.” Color holds strong connotations for Nevelson as she recognizes their cultural significance as well as her personal relationships with each. Rather than viewing the world from rose-colored glasses, we see a different perspective in Louise Nevelson’s work.

Artwork above: Louise Nevelson, Composition 1967, 1967, Photograph, Non-Silver, 20.13 x 8.5 inches. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Dorsky. Permanent Collection. 1972.1.6.95