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Louise Nevelson (1899 - 1988)

Lot 124: Louise Nevelson , 1899-1988 Dawn's Wedding Feast, Column VI wood, painted white


November 15, 2007
New York, NY, US

More About this Item


wood, painted white


96 by 13 by 13 in. 243.8 by 33 by 33 cm.


New York, Museum of Modern Art, Sixteen Americans, December 1959 - February 1960


Exh. Cat., New York, The Jewish Museum, The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend, p. 4 and p. 46 (both illustrations of the work as installed in Sixteen Americans exhibition)


Art-Pace, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in October 1978


Executed in 1959.
In 1959, Louise Nevelson, along with Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Jasper Johns and several others, was invited by curator Dorothy Miller to participate in the Sixteen Americans exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. The charge of this exhibition was to herald the new avant-garde American artists viewed to be at the helm of their aesthetic generation. As such, Sixteen Americans was the exhibition that by many accounts, upon its debut was perceived as a "seismic shift in the artworld." (Exh. Cat., The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend, New York, The Jewish Museum, 2007, p. 5.) To date, Nevelson's aphotic body of work had solely consisted of found wooden objects painted black, and yet, when invited by Miller to participate in the exhibition Dawn's Wedding Feast, Nevelson blithely stated, "Dear, we'll make a white show." And she did. A 60 year young Nevelson's contribution to the exhibition that included artists primarily at the nascent days of their careers; was the construction of a fantastically ambitious, intimate and autobiographically reflexive room environment populated with complex white wood constructions. She titled the installation Dawn's Wedding Feast, and it was met with immediate critical and public acclaim. (Exh. Cat., The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend, New York, The Jewish Museum, 2007, p. 5) The present work, Dawn's Wedding Feast, Column VI was one of the totemic inhabitants of this coolly abstracted, monochromatic environment. The title itself recalls the "rosy fingered dawn" epithet oft used to describe the promising beginning of Odysseus's epic journey in the Odyssey, perhaps suggesting Nevelson's acute awareness that the inclusion in this seminal exhibition was a promising new beginning for her career. Further, there was a dichotomous relationship to the eponymous title which was personally referential for Nevelson, as she ended a fractious marriage in 1941. As much as Nevelson's use of black had a specific function for her, so too was the radical use of pure white. Its application for the environment was intentional and deliberate as she stated, "It was, a kind of wish fulfillment, a transition to a marriage with the world." (Exh. Cat., The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend, New York, The Jewish Museum, 2007, p. 45) The color may have been different but the function for Nevelson was the same, a homogenous and simple color owning the hefty task of uniting disparate and heterogeneous elements into a oneness and sameness.

Although Nevelson had hoped that the environment would have been acquired by an institution in its entirety, it failed to do so. Dawn's Wedding Feast was dismantled and individual works were sold to institutions and private collectors; others were reconfigured and traveled on to be exhibited as part of the installation Voyage, the white environment exhibited at the American Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 1962.

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Contemporary Art Day

November 15, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

New York, NY, US

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