Friday, November 13, 2009
Louise Nevelson vs Lexus
It was hated and reviled when it first came to town, and yet, thirty years later, the sculpture has the last word. Louise Nevelson’s sculpture “Summer Night Tree” was hit by a Lexus last night. The sculpture, made of steel survived quite nicely, the Lexus, however, did not.
I have been a big fan of Nevelson’s work ever since I saw her piece Sky Presence 1 at the Toledo Museum of Art. The huge assemblage of wood, painted black, compelled you to climb up and touch, but as a good visitor and a student, I knew better. The piece always intrigued me, as it was lit with the regular gallery lighting, but it had two blue spot lights on it as well. To this day, no one has been able to tell me if this was a Nevelson choice or a curator choice. Depending on the day and conditions in the gallery, the piece could have a blue tint to it or it could be saturated with sunlight filtering in from the gallery’s sky lights. I also remember the piece having a distinct smell to it, one that reminded me of the painting studio in the School of Design located in the basement below the museum. It could have been the fumes wafting up from the basement, or it could have been the patina of paint that Nevelson and her workers applied to the piece. Regardless, it involved more than just your vision, and that’s what I loved.
It made your nose twitch with the smell of linseed oil and other studio smells, and it made your hands eager to explore the nooks and crannies created by the layering of the various shapes of wood by the artist. The piece here in Jackson was out in the town’s square for several decades, and countless people have done to it what I wanted to do to Sky Cathedral in Toledo. It was climbed on, ran around, touched, and explored by visitors of all ages. I used to drive by the site on my way to work a while ago, and I remember seeing the sculpture crated and sitting along the edge of the Grand River as the City Fathers decided its fate. I envisioned a Fox News type countdown in my head “NEVELSON HELD HOSTAGE: DAY 40” as I drove by it each day and witnessed its silent indignation along the side of the river.
My Modern Art Professor also showed us pictures of Nevelson herself during the lectures on her sculptures, as he knew that often times, the artist is indeed more interesting than the art they create. The pictures he shared of her screamed “Diva!” and we all knew, even though the word hadn’t been assigned to this demographic, she was probably a “Cougar” as well. And, decades before Christian on Project Runway would use the word “ferosh” she was bringing her fierceness to the masses with Amy Winehouse meets Tammy Faye Baker eyeliner and her rockin’ caftans.
So what have we learned today class?
Don’t fuck with Modern Art, especially a Louise Nevelson.
To the anonymous Lexus driver, I hope you are okay, but sleep well tonight knowing that your car was just pwned by one of the 20th century’s greatest artists.