Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, celebrates two mavericks of the American Avant-Garde with the exhibition “Kindred Spirits: Louise Nevelson & Dorothy Hood”
HOUSTON—September 17, 2018—In November 2018, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will present Kindred Spirits: Louise Nevelson & Dorothy Hood, a focused selection of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper that encapsulates each artist’s evolution across four decades and reveals the subtle affinities that link these two bodies of work. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the exhibition was conceived in cooperation with Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, and will be presented at the MFAH from November 3, 2018 through February 3, 2019.
“Both Louise Nevelson and Dorothy Hood have had a major impact on Houston’s cultural scene,” stated Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “Through exhibitions and public commissions their work has shaped the history of Modernism in our city; we were able to draw on our resources, and those in Corpus Christi, to throw a fresh light on the careers of these two extraordinary artists.”
“I became fascinated with the possibilities of looking at Dorothy Hood’s work in relation to Louise Nevelson’s when I discovered that the 1970 Hood survey presented by Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum came immediately on the heels of the 1969 MFAH Nevelson exhibition,” curator Alison de Lima Greene explained. “Hood matched Nevelson in scale and ambition, while exploring similarly existential themes. Seen now in retrospect, their work enters into a powerful dialogue that enlarges our understanding of art in America.”
Nevelson and Hood each synthesized the lessons of Cubism and Surrealism into the bold language of mid-century Modernism. Born a generation apart, Louise Nevelson (1899–1988) and Dorothy Hood (1918–2000) both came of age as professional artists in the 1940s: Nevelson had her first solo exhibition in 1941 at Nierendorf Gallery, New York; Hood had her first solo exhibition two years later at the Galería de Arte María Asúnsolo in Mexico City. Both were independent women, ardently committed to assuming leading roles at the forefront of the American vanguard. And both drew inspiration from common sources, ranging from pre-Columbian art to that of their contemporaries, balancing abstraction and content as their work evolved through decades of rigorous studio practice.
While there is no documentation that the two artists became personally acquainted, their careers converged when the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, mounted a major survey of Nevelson’s work in the autumn of 1969. Organized by interim director Mary Buxton, Nevelson’s exhibition filled the soaring space of Mies van der Rohe’s Cullinan Hall with “night music” made up of columns, reliefs, and the magisterial Mirror Image I, now in the MFAH collection. Hood was on the faculty of the Museum School housed in the same building, and would have been aware of Nevelson’s achievement. The following spring she was able to issue her own authoritative statement with an exhibition of recent paintings organized by Sebastian Adler for Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum and mounted at the University of St. Thomas. Hood introduced her most monumental and eloquent paintings to date, canvases that embodied Hood’s ambitions to balance the physical with the subconscious. As Hood stated at the time, “In plastic art, form is the shadow of an essence that has gone on to meet a new function,” a comment that echoed Nevelson’s own declaration: “I compose my work pretty much as a poet does, only instead of the word I use the plastic form for my images. . . . I really deal with shadow and space.”
In both media and palette the oeuvre of the two artists are complementary. Nevelson made largely monochromatic works, painting her assemblages black, white, or gold to unify the disparate elements. Hood was an inventive colorist, often using stain techniques to unify canvas and pigment. Interestingly, when Nevelson turned to collage, she purged her compositions of recognizable imagery, whereas when Hood embraced collage, she exploited the medium’s possibilities for expressive reference. However, more profoundly, Nevelson and Hood found common ground in their dramatic layering of shallow space, in their poetic evocations of the physical and psychological landscapes of their era, and in the confident freedom of their late works.
Nevelson and Hood have been paired in larger survey exhibitions, including American Artists ’76: A Celebration (McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, 1976) and The Americans: The Collage (Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 1982), but this will be the first time the two artists have been studied together in depth. Curated by Alison de Lima Greene, Isabel Brown Wilson Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Kindred Spirits: Louise Nevelson and Dorothy Hood will draw from the Museum’s notable collection of both artists, with significant loans from the Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, and works in Houston-area collections.
About the Artists
Louise Nevelson (1899–1988) was born in Kiev, then a part of Russia, and raised in Rockland, Maine. In 1920 she moved to New York, where she studied painting at the Art Students League from 1929 through the early 1930s. By 1933, however, Nevelson shifted her attention to sculpture, working in a wide range of materials, including terra cotta, wood, and stone. She arrived at her signature style of monochromatic assemblage in the mid-1950s. Nevelson represented the United States at the 1962 Venice Biennale and her first retrospective was hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1967. Two years later her work was introduced to Houston audiences with a second major retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Nevelson continued to grow in stature over subsequent decades, and today she is internationally celebrated among the pioneers of assemblage and installation art. Nevelson began her alliance with Pace Gallery, New York, in 1965, and Pace continues to represent the artist’s estate.
Dorothy Hood (1918–2000) was born in Bryan, Texas, and raised in Houston. She entered the Rhode Island School of Design in 1937 and briefly continued her studies at the Art Students League, New York. But a 1941 visit to Mexico introduced her to a vital community of artists and expatriates that offered greater opportunities to the young artist. Hood made Mexico City her home, and in 1945 she married the Bolivian conductor and composer José Maria Velasco Maidana. The two traveled internationally over the following decade, with extended stays in New York and Puebla, as well as in Mexico City. Hood returned to Houston in 1961. She joined the faculty at the MFAH Museum School and formed an alliance with Meredith Long & Company in 1962, a fruitful partnership that endured for more than three decades. During her lifetime Hood was represented in numerous exhibitions both regionally and nationally. After her death, a major part of Hood’s estate entered the collection of the Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, which in 2016 organized the comprehensive retrospective: The Color of Being/El Color del Ser: Dorothy Hood (1918–2000).
Organization and Funding
This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Generous support provided by:
Johanna and Stephen Donson
Carol Lynne Werner
About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Established in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States, with an encyclopedic collection of nearly 70,000 works dating from antiquity to the present. The main campus comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in 2000; the Caroline Wiess Law Building, originally designed by William Ward Watkin, with extensions by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe completed in 1958 and 1974; the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi and opened in 1986; the Glassell School of Art, designed by Steven Holl Architects and opened in 2018; and The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza, designed by Deborah Nevins & Associates, Inc, and opened in 2018. Additional spaces include a repertory cinema, two libraries, public archives, and facilities for conservation and storage. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art. mfah.org
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