Louise Nevelson American (1899–1988), Sky Sentinels, 1976

Nevelson Copy Louise Nevelson American (1899–1988), Sky Sentinels, 1976 Painted aluminum Promised gift of Charles Hayes ‘65, in memory of Burton and Naomi Kanter IL2019.006.002

The Snite Museum of Art announces the acquisition of Sky Sentinels, a 1976 work by the iconic sculptor Louise Nevelson. In heralding the gift, Joseph Antenucci Becherer, Director and Curator of Sculpture at the Snite Museum, said, “It is an honor and pleasure to welcome this exceptional work to the museum through the insightful patronage of Charles S. Hayes, who remains a beacon for the appreciation of art, and sculpture in particular. Nevelson is among the bold figures in the history of sculpture and this landmark work in her oeuvre offers vivid testimony of her achievement. Further, she was a pioneering figure for women in the visual arts and her presence in the collection allows us to both celebrate her and her legacy.”

One of the most remarkable artists of the 20th century, Louise Nevelson (1899–1988) studied as a dancer, actress, ceramist, and painter before embarking on a career as a sculptor. Born in what is present-day Ukraine, she emigrated with her family from Czarist Russia to Rockland, Maine, where they were among the few Jewish families in town. Independent and athletic, Louise briefly married and moved to New York where she was drawn to the art world. In the 1930s, she moved to Munich to study with Hans Hofmann; while there, she was introduced to collage and assemblage and exposed to the European avant-garde.

Returning to New York in 1932, she began to assemble large compositions of found objects, primarily of wood, which she painted a uniform black. By the late 1950s, she had established a definitive abstract style and her works were eagerly acquired. Although never formally a part of any movement, Nevelson is associated with the phenomenon of “New American Sculpture,” whose adherents pioneered the use of industrial materials in an abstract vocabulary.

In the 1970s, Nevelson began working out of doors where she utilized sheets of steel, aluminum, and plexiglass in her sculpture, all often painted in her signature black. The year 1976 was a critical one for the artist: her work was selected for a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, solidifying her stature as one of the most important artists of the age. With Barbara Hepworth, Louise Bourgeois, and Beverly Pepper, Nevelson is regarded as one of the pioneering female figures who greatly expanded the dimensions of 20th-century sculpture.   

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