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The San José Museum of Art acquires major works of art by Louise Nevelson, Alexander Calder, among others
Installation shot of Louise Nevelson: The Fourth Dimension. Photo by JKA Photography.

SAN JOSE, CA.- The San José Museum of Art today announced major acquisitions of art in year-end gifts from two Bay Area private collections. Among them are five works of art by prominent American artist Louise Nevelson (1899‒1988), a gift from the collection of Beverly and Peter Lipman of Portola Valley and the Lipman Family Foundation. The group includes the 92-inch tall assemblage sculpture Cascades-Perpendiculars II (Night Music) (1980 — 1982), as well as two smaller assemblages and two works on paper. The Lipman gift also includes a work on paper by Alexander Calder and a photographic portrait of Nevelson by photographer Hans Namuth. Many of the new acquisitions are currently on view at SJMA in the exhibition Louise Nevelson: The Fourth Dimension through March 18, 2018.

The Museum also received seven gifts from Wanda Kownacki of Los Gatos, including works by Andrea Bowers, Russell Crotty, Morris Graves, Mona Hatoum, Lara Schnitger, and Terry Winters.

“These two gifts are among the largest and most generous gifts of art SJMA has received,” said S. Sayre Batton, Oshman Executive Director of the San José Museum of Art. “Thanks to the Lipmans, whose tremendous generosity over the years has helped build SJMA’s collection, SJMA now has a significant group of works by Louise Nevelson that represent a special, personal relationship between the artist and collector. And we are grateful to Wanda Kownacki, whose gift includes works by important artists working today who were previously unrepresented in our permanent collection.”

Nevelson’s Cascades-Perpendiculars II (1980–82) is tall and free-standing, measuring at 92 x 33 x 38 inches. The sculpture is assembled from decorative remnants of a church organ rescued from St. Marks Church on the Bowery, New York that was devastated by a fire in 1978. This work details Nevelson’s practice and her close engagement with the city she lived in, where she sourced discarded materials found on streets. The work from later in Nevelson’s career is an appropriate bookend to the seminal piece Sky Cathedral (1957), which the Lipmans gave to SJMA in 2010.

In addition to Cascades-Perpendiculars II (Night Music), the Lipman gift includes two smaller assemblages, Untitled (1962–85) and Untitled (brooch) (1966); and two works on paper, Untitled (Tamarind 820) (1963), and Untitled (1981). The 1962 sculpture and the 1981 print, as well as the photograph by Namuth, are each inscribed by Nevelson to the late Jean and Howard Lipman, Peter Lipman’s parents. Jean and Howard Lipman were close friends of Nevelson. Jean Lipman was longtime editor of Art in America and author of the 1983 book, Nevelson’s World. Howard Lipman was chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, from 1977 to 1985. The Calder gouache carries two inscriptions, one from “Sandy” Calder to Louise Nevelson, and another from Nevelson to the Lipmans.

Born in Poltava Governorate, Russia (now Ukraine) in 1899, Louise Nevelson relocated to the United States with her family in 1905 and went on to study visual and performing arts at New York’s Art Students League. While in New York she studied alongside artists such as Diego Rivera and Stanley William Hayter and eventually joined the Works Progress Administration through the Educational Alliance School of Art in the mid to late 1930s. Over her long career, Nevelson received a National Medal of Arts from President Ronald Reagan, a MacDowell Colony Medal, and a grand prize for work in the Art USA exhibition at the New York Coliseum. Her work is in the collections of major museums across the United States. Nevelson died in New York City in 1988.

The Lipman Family Foundation also donated works by Dan Basen, Chryssa, Semour Lipton, and Harold Tovish.

Among the highlights of the gift from Kownacki is Drowning Sorrows (2001‒2002) by Mona Hatoum, the first work by that artist to enter SJMA’s collection. The works comprise o clear broken bottles arranged in a circular formation on the floor, so as to appear to sink beneath its surface. Hatoum is a Palestinian exile whose work explores themes of home and displacement using common domestic objects. Hatoum’s work is currently the subject of an acclaimed exhibition at the Menil Collection, Houston, which will later travel to the Pulitzer Art Foundation, Saint Louis.

Kownacki’s gift also includes the 2006‒2007 video work Vows (Goldman, Emma, “Marriage and Love.” New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1910) by Andrea Bowers; the circular drawing M28 Globular Cluster in Sagittarius (2000) by Russell Crotty; two 1964 drawings by Morris Graves; the sculpture Don’t Let the Boys Win (2003) by Lara Schnitger; and Untitled (1999), an acrylic, oil, and ink on paper work by Terry Winters.

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