The selection included the black wood Spring Street (1984)—a surprisingly formal composition with fragments of musical instruments among its found components—as well as a 1985 mixed-media assemblage that gave the full measure of her other endeavors. Rauschenbergian with rusty crushed-metal pieces and chair parts trying to break free, the sculpture is animated in a way that the architectural sculptures are not.
Nevelson’s sculptures capture and organize the refuse as well as the sophistication of the city. Her legacy can be found in the work of Chakaia Booker, who in contrast builds with black rubber tires, giving her equally elegant sculptures a streetwise cubistic form. Nevelson found a way to show three-dimensionality flattened out. Call it constructivism.
A version of this story originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 78.