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On display on Level 2

Morris LOUIS

United States of America 1912 – 1962

Nexus II

1959 Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Dimensions: 274.3 h x 426.7 w cm canvas 243.0 h x 340.0 w cm frame 247.0 h x 343.0 w cm
Cat Raisonné: Diane UPRIGHT: Morris Louis, the complete paintings, New York, Harry N. Abrams 1985
Acknowledgement: Bequest of Marcella Louis Brenner, the artist’s widow 2010
Accession No: NGA 2010.583
Image rights: © 1959 Morris Louis

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'Nexus' means connection or link. The painting, made in 1959, marks the transition between two series of important paintings by Morris Louis, who created a new style of Abstract Expressionism in the last five years of his short life. The style was later called Post-painterly Abstraction by the critic Clement Greenberg. The artist was born Morris Louis Bernstein in 1912 in Baltimore and went to New York in 1936, first using the name ‘Morris Louis’ in 1937. He returned to Baltimore in 1940 before moving to Silver Spring, near Washington DC, in 1952.

A decisive moment for Louis’s art came in 1953, when Greenberg introduced him and Kenneth Noland to the new aesthetic of Helen Frankenthaler, who was soak-staining her canvases. Louis then developed his distinctive art of staining unstretched canvases. After destroying 300 paintings made between 1955 and 1957, he experimented with overlapping poured washes of thinned paint on unprimed canvas for the Veils series of 1957–59. His next series, Unfurled 1960–61, featured brilliantly coloured diagonal stripes at the edges of giant canvases.

In Nexus II, plain fields of colour are pushed to the sides. Thin washes of denim blue on the left and jade green on the right are separated by an off-white panel. The effect of harmonious, even blissful, colour is intensified by the simplicity of means the artist uses, and the large size of the work. The artist’s widow, Marcella Louis Brenner, outlived him by nearly half a century. Her will generously left Nexus II to the Gallery, to join his other two fine paintings.

Christine Dixon Senior Curator, International Painting and Sculpture
in artonview, issue 64,  summer 2010

in artonview, issue 64, summer 2010