Every year, on the campus of MIT, freshmen discover “Transparent Horizon,” Louise Nevelson’s towering work of angular black steel, and every year, demanding its removal, they hurl paint at the thing. Nevelson’s work, they’ve learned, is rarely welcoming.
The impressive survey at PaceWildenstein is another chance to see some of the most formidable sculptures you’ll ever encounter—and to marvel at how Nevelson assembled all of them from junk. Consider the large, untitled work from 1964—open crates stacked on their sides and packed mostly with wooden blocks and decorative posts. As she did with much of her work, Nevelson painted everything black, removing the objects’ household associations and making us see something wholly different. In this case, the tapered shapes eerily resemble a shadowed collection of limbs. The crowded and compartmentalized darkness—present elsewhere—is like an abstracted version of Rodin’s The Gates of Hell.
But three years before her death in 1988 at the age of 89, in a series of assemblages, Nevelson left her objects bare. Without the homogenizing black, a broken chair, a broom handle, and gas cans suddenly evoke an individual grace—it’s as if Nevelson were finally revealing her affection for all the scrap that brought her fame and fortune.
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. Starts: Feb. 19. Continues through March 14, 2009