Louise Nevelson's Sculpture


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Drag, Color, Join, Face

Julia Bryan-Wilson

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A daring reassessment of Louise Nevelson, an icon of twentieth-century art whose innovative procedures relate to gendered, classed, and racialized forms of making

In this radical rethinking of the art of Louise Nevelson (1899–1988), Julia Bryan-Wilson provides a long-overdue critical account of a signature figure in postwar sculpture. A Ukraine-born Jewish immigrant, Nevelson persevered in the male-dominated New York art world. Nonetheless, her careful procedures of construction—in which she assembled found pieces of wood into elaborate structures, usually painted black—have been little studied.

Organized around a series of key operations in Nevelson’s own process (dragging, coloring, joining, and facing), the book comprises four slipcased, individually bound volumes that can be read in any order. Both form and content thus echo Nevelson’s own modular sculptures, the gridded boxes of which the artist herself rearranged. Exploring how Nevelson’s making relates to domesticity, racialized matter, gendered labor, and the environment, Bryan-Wilson offers a sustained examination of the social and political implications of Nevelson’s art. The author also approaches Nevelson’s sculptures from her own embodied subjectivity as a queer feminist scholar. She forges a boldly intersectional art history that places Nevelson’s assemblages in dialogue with a wide array of marginalized worldmaking and underlines the artist’s proclamation of allegiance to blackness.

Julia Bryan-Wilson is the award-winning author of Fray: Art and Textile Politics and Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era.

“Julia Bryan-Wilson’s Louise Nevelson is exceptional in its innovative framing, physical structure, and above all, brilliantly original weaving of personal experience, material analysis, and art historical methodologies.”—Jo Applin, author of Lee Lozano: Not Working

“Bryan-Wilson brings world-class critical, feminist, and social-historical skills to bear on Nevelson’s sculpture and public persona. The result is that we see Nevelson’s radiant intelligence in a new light.”—Richard Meyer, author of Master of the Two Left Feet: Morris Hirshfield Rediscovered

Winner of a Terra Foundation for American Art International Publication Grant from CAA
ISBN: 9780300236705
Publication Date: June 27, 2023
352 pages, 7 x 9
105 color + 24 b/w illus.
40 under 40

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