As a rectangular plane viewed from the front, Sky Cathedral has the pictorial quality of a painting—perhaps one of the preceding decade’s Abstract Expressionist canvases, which share its ambitious scale—but it quickly reveals richly layered depth. Its intricacy lies in both the method of its construction—it is made of shallow open boxes ﬁtted together like a jigsaw puzzle—and those boxes’ contents, the salvaged wood bits and pieces with which Nevelson ﬁlled many of her works. These include moldings, dowels, spindles, chair parts, architectural ornaments, and scroll-sawed fragments. Nevelson made this material into a high wall that is variegated by a play of ﬂatness and recession, straight lines and curves, overlappings and vacancies.
In this and in many other works, she painted every object and box the same dully glowing black, unifying them visually while also obscuring their original identities. “I don’t think I chose it for black,” Nevelson reflected of this decision. “I think it chose me for saying something. You see, it says more for me than anything else.... For me it is the total color. It means totality. It means: contains all.”
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)