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WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY SCULPTURE TOUR

Night Tree

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Night TreeArtist - Louise Nevelson
Born - 1900
Died - 1988
Origin - Russia
Year Built - 1971

About the Artist:  A native of the Ukraine, Louise Nevelson emigrated to Maine with her family in 1905. She studied at the Art Students League from 1929-30 and with Hans Hoffman (1880-1966) in Munich in 1931. In 1932, she worked as an assistant to Diego Rivera (1886-1957) in New York and later taught at the Educational Alliance School of Art.

In the 1940s, Nevelson began to explore the unconscious mind as a source of aesthetic inspiration. At first, she experimented with terra cotta forms constructed along a vertical axis. Painted black, the works were vaguely totemic and were inscribed with mysterious archetypal symbols. Nevelson found the color black particularly suited to her interest in nighttime, dreams, and the unconscious. In the 1950s, she began constructing relief-like assemblages in which she filled a grid-like series of shadow boxes with fragments of wood. The wall pieces quickly earned the artist an international reputation and by the 1960s she was regarded as one of the masters of modern art. Her strong desire to create outdoor works led her to experiment with aluminum and cor-ten steel, fulfilling her aspirations to be an "environmental architect." In 1969, she created her first cor-ten work, for Princeton University. Much of Nevelson's metal work was vertical in orientation, similar to many of her earlier ceramic pieces, and built from various scraps she had discovered at the Lippincott Foundry in North Haven, Connecticut. Calling this new work "sculpture-collage," she held her first exhibit, the Seventh Decade Garden, at the Pace Gallery in New York in 1971. Although the works in the 1971 installation were made of aluminum, Night Tree, the cor-ten steel work on the Wichita State University campus, is closely linked to the Seventh Decade Garden. The columnal form, covered with a collage of steel scraps, bears the arboreal symbolism of the Pace installation. Night Tree originally bore the dark tones of the cor-ten, in line with Nevelson's oeuvre, but the weather has gradually rusted the surface. The corrosion notwithstanding, the title of Night Tree summons the same enigmatic and unconscious symbolism of earlier works.