Born Leah Berliawsky
Louise Nevelson is usually referred to as an assemblage artist, but a major factor in her importance to the art world is how she linked assemblage with abstract art and minimalism. ••
Born in Kiev, Russia (now Ukraine), Nevelson and her family emigrated to Rockland, Maine (United States) when she was very young. By 1920 she had married and moved to NYC. She knew from a young age that she wanted to be an artist and, not content with being a housewife after marriage and the birth of her son, Nevelson began seeking an outlet for her creative impulses.
Nevelson studied visual and performing arts, despite the disapproval of her parents-in-law. She commented: "My husband's family was terribly refined. Within that circle you could know Beethoven, but God forbid if you were Beethoven."
In 1924, the family moved to Mt. Vernon in upstate New York, which quickly began to destroy Nevelson’s creative spirit. By the early 1930s she had separated from her husband and moved herself and her son back to New York City. •••
She later said in a television interview with the Tate “New York is my mirror...New York is unlimited. Some of us could not fulfill ourselves elsewhere. Some people need a wide stage.”
Through studies at home and abroad, Nevelson experimented with various art forms, including lithography and etching, but found her true calling to be sculpture. Nevelson’s father, a lumberyard owner and antique collector, was also a strong influence as she developed a passion for collecting all kinds of found objects - especially wood - which she began to craft into sculptures. Much of her early material was actually gathered while Nevelson and her son collected firewood in the streets of NYC to make ends meet. •••
Between the years of 1941 and 1946 she exhibited cubist-inspired work created from bronze, plaster, and clay in a series of one-woman shows. It wasn’t until 1943 that the art-world got their first glimpse of what would become Nevelson’s signature style of assembling wood. [Continued in comments below👇]