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Atmosphere and Environment XI, 1969; fabricated 1971
Louise Nevelson (1899-1988)
Location: Yale University Art Gallery Sculpture Garden

At twelve feet tall, Louise Nevelson’s Atmosphere and Environment XI looms over viewers, dominating its setting and dramatically reshaping perception of the surrounding space. The Russian-born artist’s earlier indoor wall sculptures were grids constructed of discarded wooden crates, filled with architectural fragments and other found objects and painted a uniform black. The surface of this cor-ten steel construction presents a similar web of suggestively shaped shadows, here semitransparent like a bank of windows which ultimately screens more than it reveals. The tension between the work’s curving natural forms and rigid rectangles abstractly implies an inner psychic conflict and the influence of surrealism. At the same time, the sculpture’s totemic monumentality and geometric composition echo forms common in Maya art and architecture, which Nevelson also admired. Seymour H. Knox, B.A. 1920, Fund, 1971