“I fell in love with black; it contained all color. It wasn’t a negation of color. It was an acceptance. Because black encompasses all colors. Black is the most aristocratic color of all… You can be quiet, and it contains the whole thing.” – Louise Nevelson
American sculptor Louise Nevelson became known for her large, three-dimensional wooden structures, almost all painted in monochromatic white or black. In her most iconic works, she utilized found objects and scraps gathered from debris piles, and so referred to herself as “the original recycler”. Nevelson originally limited herself to black and white to “discipline” herself—but the colors eventually became part of her signature style.
During the mid-Fifties, she produced her first series of all-black wood landscape structures, describing herself as the Architect of Shadow. “Shadow and everything else on Earth actually is moving. Movement—that’s in color, that’s in form, that’s in almost everything. Shadow is fleeting… I arrest it and I give it a solid substance.” For much of her life, critics and admirers were almost fixated on her use of black, but Nevelson never shied from discussing its importance. “You see, [black] says more for me than anything else. In the academic world, they say black and white were no colors, but I’m twisting that to tell you that, for me, it is the total color. It means totality. It means: contains all.”
Images of Louise Nevelson from Jeanne Bucher Jaeger. Images of Nevelson’s work from the Guggenheim Museum.
Thank you for your journal articles. I get so excited to learn about all these new people, places and things! You have and continue to keep my “eyes open”! Thank you!
I quite agree with Nevelson. Back in my early days, when I had just graduated from high school in AL., I wanted a black summer cotton dress. No way. Black was for funerals, not fun. So, I made a dress from light colored fabric and dyed it black in my grandmother’s kitchen. Never before had I ever received the attention that this dress brought me. I got a “rush” at a school dance that I had never had before. And ever since, I have considered black my favorite color. When I finally saw Nevelson’s work in NY, I knew what she meant. And her all white-sculpture in the chapel in a NY skyscraper was as exciting as anything I had ever seen. I think that she makes you look at Form itself, when she doesn’t break it up into various colors. (That is a different story). I could go on and on…
No matter. Nevelson lives in Chanin’s work!
Great article, I can completely identify with Louise Nevelson’s identification with the colors black and white. For me they have always been the ultimate colors and use them daily in my environment and wardrobe.