Louise Nevelson’s Sculpture

Julia Bryan-Wilson in conversation with Thomas (T.) Jean Lax
October 5, 2023

Join us for the release of Louise Nevelson’s Sculpture: Drag, Color, Join, Face with author Julia Bryan-Wilson in conversation with writer and curator Thomas (T.) Jean Lax.

In this radical rethinking of the art of Louise Nevelson (1899–1988), Julia Bryan-Wilson provides a long-overdue critical account of a signature figure in postwar sculpture. A Ukraine-born Jewish immigrant, Nevelson persevered in the male-dominated New York art world. Nonetheless, her careful procedures of construction—in which she assembled found pieces of wood into elaborate structures, usually painted black—have been little studied.

Organized around a series of key operations in Nevelson’s own process (dragging, coloring, joining, and facing), the book comprises four slipcased, individually bound volumes that can be read in any order. Both form and content thus echo Nevelson’s own modular sculptures, the gridded boxes of which the artist herself rearranged. Exploring how Nevelson’s making relates to domesticity, racialized matter, gendered labor, and the environment, Bryan-Wilson offers a sustained examination of the social and political implications of Nevelson’s art. The author also approaches Nevelson’s sculptures from her own embodied subjectivity as a queer feminist scholar. She forges an expansive art history that places Nevelson’s assemblages in dialogue with a wide array of marginalized worldmaking and underlines the artist’s proclamation of allegiance to blackness.

Julia Bryan-Wilson is an art historian, critic, and curator who teaches at Columbia University. Her books include _Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era (2009) and the award-winning Fray: Art and Textile Politics (2017). She is also Curator-at-Large at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo._

Thomas (T.) Jean Lax is a writer and curator specializing in Black art and performance. They recently prepared the exhibition _Just Above Midtown: 1974 to the Present (2022) with Lilia Rocio Taboada in collaboration with JAM’s founder, Linda Goode Bryant. Their other collaboratively organized exhibitions at MoMA include Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done (2018), with Ana Janevski and Martha Joseph; the Projects Series for emerging artists, co-led with Lanka Tattersall; Unfinished Conversations (2017), inspired by John Akomfrah’s installation on the cultural theorist Stuart Hall; and the contemporary art survey Greater New York (2015). Previously, they worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem. A native New Yorker, Lax holds degrees in Africana studies and art history from Brown and Columbia universities and is a PhD candidate in performance studies at New York University, where they are working on a project about mothers. They were the inaugural recipient of the Cisneros Research Grant, traveling to Brazil in 2020._