© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Nevelson created commanding abstract sculptures assembled from bits of furniture and architectural fragments that she salvaged from the streets of New York. In her studio, she and her assistants put the pieces together using carpentry tools. Painted black and placed in an irregular organizing system of wooden crates and boxes, these urban scraps and containers take on a dramatic pictorial unity while simultaneously referencing their former use. Nevelson’s work draws on a rich history of found-object sculpture, from Marcel Duchamp’s readymades to surrealist assemblage. Like David Smith, Nevelson used modern construction materials to develop distinct forms of abstraction. Together their work opened a way for a younger generation of artists for whom mass-produced objects held more power than the painted canvas.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Louise Nevelson, American (Kiev, Russia 1899 - 1988 New York, NY)
Total Totality II
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1110, Modern and Contemporary Art, Mid–century Abstraction II
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Physical Descriptions
Painted wood
258.13 x 429.9 x 24.77 cm (101 5/8 x 169 1/4 x 9 3/4 in.)
Louise Nevelson, New York NY, Constructed, 1959, Sold to Richard H. Solomon.
Richard H. Solomon, New York NY, Purchased from Louise Nevelson, Gift to Fogg Art Museum, 1978.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Richard H. Solomon in honor of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney L. Solomon
© Estate of Louise Nevelson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Publication History

Louise Nevelson, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Houston, TX, 1969), no. 16, reproduced in b/w

Caroline A. Jones, Modern Art at Harvard: The Formation of the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press, 1985). With an essay by John Coolidge and a preface by John M. Rosenfield. To accompany the inaugural exhibition at the Sackler Museum, Oct 21 1985 - Jan 5 1986, reproduced in b/w fig. 95, p. 99

Exhibition History

Louise Nevelson, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, 10/23/1969 - 12/14/1969; University of Texas at Austin Art Museum, Austin, 01/15/1970 - 02/15/1970

Modern Art at Harvard, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/21/1985 - 01/05/1986

Shades of Significance, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/11/1993 - 02/25/1996

32Q: 1110 Mid-Century Abstraction II (Post-Painterly Abstraction), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Related Media

Visual description by Marina Isgro, Nam June Paik Research Fellow, Division of Modern and Contemporary Art. Written August 2018.

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu