A new biography of Louise Nevelson provides a comprehensive view of the influential artist

In 400 pages, this meticulous, illustrated biography illuminates the character, life, and work of an extraordinary creative figure from the twentieth century. In Louise Nevelson: Light and Shadow, the subject is painted as persistent, prolific, dramatic, beautiful, and, above all, possessive of an almost unwavering sense of faith in herself as an artist.

Wilson, who first met the artist 40 years ago, guides her reader through the motivations and molding of this remarkable person—from family and early life experiences, through young adulthood, marriage, motherhood,   divorce, desire, success, spirituality, life and death, joy and loss—and, throughout, artistic growth.

Wilson studies the artist’s contradictory memories and those of the people closest to her. The account of those who touched Nevelson’s life reads like a list of top twentieth-century artists: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Paul Klee, Isamu Noguchi, Merce Cunningham, and more. She knew, worked with, admired, or was admired by each in turn, as well as many major figures in the New York and international art scene.

Just as impressive is Nevelson’s study of different media and styles—drawing, painting, etching, wood, clay, stone, metal, found objects, surrealism, abstraction, cubism —and Wilson deftly describes Nevelson’s exploration of them. As an artist yearning for exposure but also enclosure, she is revealed as equally driven by the need to create and the need for recognition. The subtitle Light and Shadow refers to dark and bright areas in her life, her use of literal light and shadow as an exhibition medium, and complex connections between the two.

Well worth the read for those interested not only in this artist, but in the impulses driving any great artist, this biography is also apt for those who believe, like Nevelson, in the inseparability of art and life.


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