At a time when the world of sculpture was dominated by men, Louise Nevelson was not afraid to take up space. Born in 1899, Nevelson bucked the norms of her time and became known around the world for her large-scale, monochromatic wooden sculptures.

Now through January, more than 50 of her works are on display at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in an exhibition titled “The World Outside: Louise Nevelson at Midcentury.”

The show is a chance to discover Nevelson’s work, which was unique in its ability to capture the vitality of the postwar period, curator Shirley Reece-Hughes, said in a press release.

“We hope the exhibition gives scholars and art lovers alike a new appreciation for the artist’s endless creativity and legacy as a forecaster for the art world,” the curator of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper at the Carter said.

If you go

 What: “The World Outside: Louise Nevelson at Midcentury” exhibition
Now – Jan. 7
Amon Carter Museum of American Art
            3501 Camp Bowie Blvd.
            Fort Worth, TX 76107

The artist was not fond of labels, according to insight from her granddaughter in the book, “The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson: Constructing a Legend.”

“She said, ‘I’m not a feminist. I’m an artist who happens to be a woman.’ She was always shedding all of these labels, all of these boxes,” Maria Nevelson said. “She was creating her own reality.” 

Regardless of what Louise Nevelson called herself, she wasn’t afraid to hold her own and carved out space for the women who came after her.

In a 1977 documentary titled “Nevelson in Process,” the artist recalled being in conversation with a group of men as they discussed art.

“One of ’em said to me, ‘Don’t you know Nevelson, you’ve got to have balls to be a sculptor?’ and I said ‘Oh, well, I’ve got balls,’ and they shut up,” she said. “So I had confidence. If they didn’t want me, they didn’t want me. I was still going to … it didn’t stop me from working.” 

In that same documentary she walks around her cavernous studio, cigarette in hand, retooling the placement of one object or another on her sculptures, as a crew of fabricators patiently await her adjustments.

“If you ever saw me in my heyday, say I put a wall up and there’s one line that didn’t please me, I’d take it right down and put it up again,” she says over footage of her looking through materials while wearing a long coat, silk scarf on her head and her signature larger-than-life false eyelashes. “If it’d kill me, I’d do it.”

YouTube video

Many of her works were made from discarded pieces of wood that were later painted all one color — black, white or gold — drawing attention to the light, shadows and multitude of shapes nestled within each subsection of the large-scale works.

The exhibition spans her works from the late 1930s to early 1970s. In addition to highlighting the sculptural work she was famous for, the show also includes some early figure drawings and several prints.

Five different sections, each of which represents a distinct theme in her work, fill the gallery space. 

Guests first enter into the section called “The Choreographer,” which highlights the influence of her 20 year dance practice on the artist’s drawings and sculptural work.

The space race is said to have influenced her desire to produce works that ventured into the idea of “the beyond,” a theme explored in “The Visionary” section. 

“The Community Builder” explores the shared spaces created in her environmental installations, and “The Printmaker” pores over works from her lithography residency.

“The Environmentalist” features work that pushes back against the postwar mass consumerism of her time.

More than 50 of Louise Nevelson’s works are currently on display at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. The exhibition is in Fort Worth through January and will later travel to Waterville, Maine, where it will be displayed at the Colby College Museum of Art. (Marcheta Fornoff | Fort Worth Report)

“The new scholarship presented in the exhibition is a timely reminder of the crucial role artists serve as witnesses to history; the nuanced stories still to be discovered within seemingly familiar works,” Andrew J. Walker, executive director at the Carter, said in a press release. “ And — as underscored by Jean Shin’s and Tara Donovan’s catalog reflections — the ways that any single voice can echo through generations to follow.”

Museum-goers will have the opportunity to create their own Nevelson-inspired works at the Carter’s annual Party on the Porch on Sept. 30.

The exhibition will wrap at the Carter on Jan. 7 and will then travel to Waterville, Maine where it will be on display at the Colby College Museum of Art. 

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...