Los Angeles

Louise Nevelson

Ferus/Pace Gallery

Inaugurating the new Ferus/Pace gallery are three large plastic constructions of Louise Nevelson. Her former wood assemblages have been modified to the extent that designed maquettes of a geometric nature are executed in lucite; in effect she has gracefully turned the manufacture of her works to others while exercising complete control. The black plastic exists in both dully lustrous and shiny versions. The color pervades the work, unifying the various compositions more convincingly than in the previous single color coats of paint, for differences in form source (handmade, machined, and scrap salvage) and surface texture no longer exist. If more unified, obviously it follows the sculptures are less rich in variety. The dominant quality is one of a synthetic luxuriousness. This quality would probably be more matter of factly brittle in a white one, and more elegantly chi-chi in the gold-brass versions.

One is aware now how modular were her former box construction units but whereas they retained their singularity within the wall scheme, each of the new works is to be appreciated as an entire free standing, non-rearrangable ensemble. The basic elements of the largest wall involve repeated variations of simple geometric forms. Some boxes are open, most are packed close in layers with quarter circles, squares, cylinders on end and turned across the spaces. The junctions of the arcing circles particularly recall the geometrics of an earlier era—the configurations of Tauber Arp and the Delaunays. But just as Nevelson’s previous wood sculptures depended entirely on the pioneering efforts of Schwitters and his Merzhaus without dampening any international enthusiasm, this recent coincidence in resemblance too will pass without lessening her stature. Her passage from the found and assembled to the precise, reflecting the change of dominant modes in American painting, parallels Schwitters’ move in 1923–4 from Dada inspired rubbish to the severity of De Stijl and the Bauhaus.

Stacked four units high, the six columns step back and forward raised upon a continuous base. The piece reads as a jagged facade or as a secret corner. The parts are staggered back just off symmetry, and the interacting arrangements of compositions across box units exemplify Nevelson’s new interest in less static, isolated, and repetitive rhythms.

Though the backs of all the works are as fully articulated as the fronts there is little invitation offered or initiative rewarded in passing completely around them. They are frontal in the way her boxes are containers filled from back to front; backing her wood assemblages with mirrors, or opening the plastic ones does not permit them to become truly spatial. It is not their nature. They are in reality carved solids or side by side totemic images. Another five foot high construction composes black lucite with clear in a prismatic effect. This is as close to a fully three-dimensional quality as she may be able to achieve.

Of the other maquettes, one is particularly arresting, resemblingmore the playful imagery of recent youthful British sculpture. An upraised ramp is packed with cylindrical barrels seemingly held from rolling off the, platform by several box forms. Never before in Nevelson’s work has the construction appeared so highly suspenseful and dependent on the counteraction of gravitational forces. One suspects the full sized version would be a remarkable structure.

Fidel A. Danieli