By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Kyle Swenson
By David Villano
By Kyle Swenson
By John Thomason
By Michele Eve
Around the corner in the museum's main gallery is the exhibition's first bold articulation of the quintessential Nevelson style, even though it's painted white rather than black. Dawn Column I (1959), a slim vertical assemblage, was part of the larger work Dawn's Wedding Feast, which was included in a show called "Sixteen Americans" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The column was one of nearly a dozen metaphorical witnesses to the wedding ceremony.
Dawn's Wedding Feast was the follow-up to Nevelson's contribution to "Moon Garden + One," the 1958 exhibition at the Grand Central Moderns gallery that had finally given her the recognition she deserved. The show featured her first wall construction, Sky Cathedral (which is now in MoMA/NY's permanent collection), part of an all-black installation created specifically for the show.
The Art and Culture Center show includes only one piece that perhaps hints at the impact Nevelson's presence must have had at "Moon Garden + One." It's a large three-part wall installation called The Endless Column, which started out in 1969 as a basic rectangular box featuring three tiers of machine-shaped wooden forms rather than found odds and ends of wood, all painted the familiar matte black.
But Nevelson returned to the piece and expanded it for a 1985 exhibition at the Farnsworth Museum, adding two more rows of boxes atop the others and a pair of slender forms, mounted separately to each side to form a triptych. I can't help seeing this elegant work as a sort of altarpiece -- Nevelson's shrine to the corner of modernism she staked out for herself and occupied so graciously for the last two or three decades of her life.
If there's a complaint to be lodged against "Selections from the Farnsworth Art Museum," it's that the exhibition needs more of those famous wall assemblages to complete its portrait of the artist as a titan of her time. Without them, it feels oddly incomplete. I even double checked with the front desk to make sure the show wasn't continued on the museum's second floor.
Thanks to the generosity of Nevelson and her siblings, the Farnsworth has the second-largest collection of the artist's work, surpassed only by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Surely a few more of the pieces that earned Nevelson her international fame and acclaim could have been made available for this otherwise fine exhibition. The Nevelson name will no doubt attract museumgoers hoping to see more of the kind of work they associate with her. It's a shame some of them might come away a bit disappointed.