When reviving a forgotten sculptor's reputation is a family affair

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Friday, April 12, 2024

When reviving a forgotten sculptor's reputation is a family affair
Installation view of exhibition Nivola: Sandscapes at Magazzino Italian Art, Cold Spring, New York. (May 8, 2021 – January 10, 2022). Photo by Marco Anelli. Courtesy Magazzino Italian Art.

by Zachary Small

COLD SPRING, NY (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Adrian Nivola remembers the long hours spent in the studio of his grandfather, Costantino Nivola, during the 1980s, watching the artist capture the warm embrace of a mother in a wood sculpture as country singer Tammy Wynette crooned over the stereo.

The music and the man came rushing back into focus this year as he went to work on nearly two dozen previously unseen sculptures from his grandfather’s studio that were cast from wet sand into the shapes of animals, people and abstract natural forms. Adrian cleaned them of mold and mildew for the exhibition currently on view at Magazzino Italian Art, a museum of postwar and contemporary work in the Hudson Valley.

“Nivola: Sandscapes,” on view through Jan. 10, represents a family’s effort to raise the profile of their patriarch, a forgotten proponent of modernism who was as comfortable collaborating with architect Le Corbusier as he was hobnobbing with celebrities like Marilyn Monroe. The exhibition celebrates the artist’s pioneering sand-casting technique, which required Nivola to carve into wet sand and fill its cavity with cement or plaster. It was a cheap, efficient method for producing large sculptural reliefs, which he installed on buildings across the country.

“This is the story of an Italian refugee who made America his home, finding kindred spirits among a community of artists and architects,” said Teresa Kittler, the exhibition’s curator, who recounted how the Sardinian artist fled fascism in 1939, arriving in New York and embedding himself in the city’s cultural scene.

From his home in Long Island, Nivola would frequently host parties that included close friends like artists Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. While his peers explored the parameters of abstract expressionism, Nivola elaborated on the traditions of Mediterranean sculpture with cuboid cutouts in concrete, humanoid figures reminiscent of his Sardinian neighbors and a constellation of prehistoric symbols.

Nivola became an outlier of the art historical narrative du jour — neither a strict modernist nor an abstract expressionist like de Kooning, Pollock or “second-generation” New York School painters — pushing his reputation into obscurity after his death in 1988. And although he never received a major retrospective in the United States, evidence of his talents exists in dozens of public art installations in schools, government buildings and public housing developments across the country.

An exhibition at Cooper Union last year discussed many of those projects, but some of those works have become endangered. In March, the New York City Housing Authority removed some of his horse sculptures from a property during construction, raising the importance of the Magazzino exhibition.

“It was hard to process because I grew up with maquettes of those horse sculptures,” said Adrian Nivola, a painter and sculptor. “To see them hacked off at the legs was just awful, but the silver lining is that the controversy has drawn more attention to my grandfather’s work.”

For more than 30 years, preservationists have criticized the city for what they see as neglect of Nivola’s public artworks. (Carl Stein, an architect consulting on the damaged horse sculptures, said there is a plan to restore the statues to their original positions at the property.) Other sculptures, which the artist donated to friends and institutions, have been lost.

While researching for their exhibition, the curators at Magazzino unearthed a 1953 maquette for the Olivetti Showroom on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The design, which features a procession of hieroglyphic gods and decorative patterns, was found in the storage facilities of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where it had been since its donation in 1974.

“It’s a fabulous example of Nivola’s style,” said Kittler, who added that the maquette was just one example of how the artist continually adjusted his designs, finding a balance between futuristic cubist figures and ancient Sardinian modes of abstraction.

“He had a very democratic idea of what art should be and was not really precious about his work.”

For the artist’s daughter, Claire Nivola, touring the Magazzino exhibition was a long-awaited reunion with the art of her father, whose lessons in the studio helped inspire her career as a children’s book illustrator and author.

“He never let me use an eraser when I was a kid drawing because he didn’t want me to become a perfectionist,” she recalled. “He had a childlike joy in life; everything we did together felt like a mix of work and play.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

June 8, 2021

Artemis Gallery to offer antiquities, Asian & ethnographic art in Exceptional Series auction

A new contemporary art museum aims to heal a city's wounds

New York City plans a Central Park mega-concert to celebrate reopening

Damien Hirst steps in among Rome's famed Berninis

Movie museum rethinks exhibitions in response to a changing world

When reviving a forgotten sculptor's reputation is a family affair

Watts Gallery - Artists' Village opens an exhibition of works by Henry Scott Tuke

Exhibition explores the role played by women in the development of modern and contemporary art in Brazil

Freeman's to sell copy of William J. Stone's printing of the Declaration of Independence

Alexander Berggruen opens an exhibition of works by Elana Bowsher, Vicente Matte, and Gabriel Mills

Peana opens an exhibition featuring works by Robert Janitz and Jessica Wozny

S.M.A.K. presents the first retrospective dedicated to the work of Anna Bella Geiger

National Black Theater plans next act in a new Harlem high-rise

Rashid Johnson's Red Stage at Astor Place now open daily

Glory Days: Springsteen to return to Broadway in June, vaccines required

Baltimore Museum of Art presents 'Frieda Toranzo Jaeger: The Perpetual Sense of Redness'

Moody Center for the Arts opens its summer exhibition featuring large-scale ceramics by Brie Ruais

"Suited Up" showcases extraordinary armor making in Texas

The 5th China International Contemporary Metal Art Exhibition opens to the public

China's Ai Weiwei unveils art exhibit in adoptive Portugal

National Football Museum reopens with new Hall of Fame exhibition

The Art of Anime auction brings genre's finest artwork to Heritage Auctions

Graeme Ferguson, filmmaker who helped create IMAX, dies at 91

Yemen's Socotra, isolated island at strategic crossroads

What Happens If You Don't Carry Out Duct Cleaning Burlington?

How to Travel for Almost Free of Cost?

What Happens When You Choose a Drug Rehab Center in Orange County?

How to sell your real estate properties without an agent?

The Best Scale Models to Build at Home

6 Ways To Jump Start Your Art Career

How To Start Your Career In Field For Art Students

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful