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Opera Costume, 1985 (detail). Pigment on cotton twill. 67 x 69 inches (170.18 x 175.26 cm). Edition of 40. Commissioned by the Opera Theater of St. Louis. Opera Costume, 1985. Pigment on cotton twill. 67 x 69 inches (170.18 x 175.26 cm). Edition of 40. Commissioned by the Opera Theater of St. Louis.
Opera Costume, 1985 (detail). Pigment on cotton twill. 67 x 69 inches (170.18 x 175.26 cm). Edition of 40. Commissioned by the Opera Theater of St. Louis.
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Opera Costume, 1985. Pigment on cotton twill. 67 x 69 inches (170.18 x 175.26 cm). Edition of 40. Commissioned by the Opera Theater of St. Louis.
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Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson’s early artistic training included study in the per forming as well as visual arts. During her residency at the FWM, Nevelson turned her attention to the design of opera costumes, a project commissioned by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis for the 1984 production of Orfeo ed Euridice. Nevelson’s commission also involved the creation of the set design, and marked her first time designing for the stage. She described the set in 1984:

The columns are independent, symbols of male and female, one different from the other. They will be onstage the whole time and the dancing will be around them. We are bordering on surrealism with some of this; instead of Orfeo holding a lyre symbolically I decided we’d just have a thin wire and fly it. It’s not played—nothing touches it.

To create the edition of forty costumes, Nevelson utilized the silkscreen printing process, drawing on motifs from earlier prints and drawings. The background is printed with marbled grey tones—randomized so that no two costumes are alike— with abstracted black patterning on top. The costumes are bold and sculptural in their form, and graphically draw on the same muted tones and dark color that define her well-known three-dimensional work. The element of shadow, which Nevelson called the “fourth-dimension,” is clear in the patterning of the costumes.

Bio
American, born Russia 1899, died 1988
Louise Nevelson immigrated to the United States in 1905 with her family, settling in Rockland, Maine. She moved to New York City in 1920 after her marriage to Charles Nevelson, and began studying at the Art Students League of New York in 1928. By the 1940s, Nevelson had begun to create assemblage sculptures, for which she used pieces of wood, broken glass, and nails; by the late 1950s, she created her first wall sculpture. In 1967, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York presented Nevelson’s first major museum retrospective. Other one-person exhibitions were organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (1973), the Seattle Art Museum (1980), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (1986). Nevelson created many large-scale public sculptures, including commissions for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge (1975) and The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which was installed in the World Trade Center and destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 2001. She was honored with three honorary doctoral degrees, and her work has been collected by over 100 public institutions.