Sunday, June 14, 2009

Louise Nevelson ~ White House Appearances with Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama

Check out this shot of Louise Nevelson with Jimmy Carter. Nevelson has been invited to the White House at least twice – the first in person as shown here and the second represented by her art. In 1979 the Women's Caucus for Art presented their first Annual Lifetime Achievement Awards. Recipients in addition to Louise Nevelson were none other than Georgia O'Keefe, Isabel Bishop, Selma Burke, and Alice Neel. If I should ever have a chance to speak with Jimmy Carter or his wife Rosalind, my first question, after telling them what an honor it is to be in their presence, will be what they thought that day when they met Louise Nevelson. My follow-up would be which piece of her work they liked the best.

Following in this grand tradition of innovation, the Obamas have recently added new art to the White House.President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have broken with tradition and have added twentieth century art to the walls of the White House. George Bush did hang a Jacob Lawrence. But the Obamas have moved far past that and have sent word to museums, galleries and private collectors that they’d like to borrow modern art by African-American, Asian, Hispanic and female artists for the White House. They are choosing bold, abstract art works including Nicolas de Stael's Nice, Alma Thomas' Skylight, Jasper Johns' Numerals 0-9, Richard Diebenkorn's Berkeley No. 52 and the one on the left by Ed Ruscha...

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obamas have also selected a work of art by Louise Nevelson although I've yet to find reference to which one. The rules as to what art work can be added vary depending upon where the work will hang. The Obamas are free to hang whatever they want in their residence and offices, including the Oval Office. Work added to public rooms must be approved by the White House curator and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, an advisory board on which the first lady serves as honorary chair. The rules are even stricter when the work will be added to the permanent collection. Those pieces must be at least twenty-five years old and are generally not from living artist because that could impact the market value of the works.

When I wasn't wandering around Las Vegas yesterday, I was wandering around the internet to do research for this post. In addition to the great photo of the Carters with Louise Nevelson, I did find this beautiful self-portrait Nevelson did in 1938. Although she said she knew she'd be a sculptor when she was nine years old, she didn't actually start creating sculptures until the 1940's and her famous assemblages until the 1950's. In the thirties she was drawing and painting. The black outlines around her eyes could be seen as harbingers of the long fake eyelashes she became famous for later in life.

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