This exhibition is the first to examine the striking visual similarities between these artists’ works evolving from a shared interest in the expressive and symbolic power of form in space. Both Siskind and Nevelson utilized a language of abstraction built from a transformation of the real—rejected, decayed, left-behind objects and detritus—into an expression of an inner and personal vision. Nevelson’s sculptures, comprised of cast-off found materials reclaimed by the artist, complement Siskind’s two-dimensional compositions (sometimes arranged) of found objects or marks, either man-made or natural.
The art historian Thomas Hess saw Siskind’s photographs from the 1940s and ‘50s as “complex images created from a synthesis of simple data.” Siskind’s practice was an overtly straightforward technique of isolating and enlarging everyday subject matter, creating abstract metaphors with new purpose and meaning. The same can be said for Nevelson, as her well-known sculptures from the 1950s-80s “synthesize” minimal and regular objects/parts into larger, complex and abstract forms. On one level, pairing these artists reveals remarkable aesthetic connections, and on another, surprisingly depicts a profoundly similar creative process.
Aaron Siskind’s influence was extensive, and his conceptual and artistic elevation of the photographic medium within the art world was truly groundbreaking. Aligning himself with the 9th Street group of Abstract Expressionist painters rather than the photographers working in this period, his work was exhibited alongside such luminaries as Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Barnett Newman. As a sculptor disinterested in indentifying with any particular school or movement, Louise Nevelson occupies a similarly unique place on the periphery of Abstract Expressionism, motivated by an interest in the Surrealist notion of “convulsive beauty” which defined the post-War climate in American art.
Bruce Silverstein Gallery is the exclusive representative of the Aaron Siskind Foundation. A catalog will be published in conjunction with the exhibition, featuring essays by Nevelson scholar Laurie Wilson and the esteemed photo-historian, Shelley Rice.