New York

Louise Nevelson

Martha Jackson Gallery

The work by Louise Nevelson dates from 1958 and was first exhibited in 1959; the present show is intended as a kind of anniversary celebration. Surrealism, since we have been talking about that, affords an excellent context in which to consider Nevelson, since it is to Surrealism that her work owes its quality, or at least did at that time. The forms are entirely Cubist-purist, and rather uninterestingly so—they are similar to those of Ben Nicholson, for example. What is interesting is how persuasively one is distracted from their banality. This is accomplished by the theatrical black, which is Surrealist; and by the intention of the sculptures to be totally experienced as a global environment, not merely seen as individual objects. In both these respects, of course, Nevelson was simply following in the wake of the decors of the First International Surrealist Exhibition of 1938. Finally, it is accomplished by Nevelson’s textures. These tend to be obscured from one’s consciousness by her monochrome, but of course one feels their effect nevertheless: the textures are surprisingly varied, sensuous, evocative, and this is apparent if one isolates details or in the small pieces, which are rather like the desolate landscapes and torn skies of Eugene Berman! It was a stimulating show.

Jerrold Lanes