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A sculpture of ten connected square or rectangular wooden boxes of different sizes.

The sculpture is made of ten connected square or rectangular wooden boxes of various sizes. Within each box are reliefs of machine or tool shaped objects some of which are identifiable such as a wrench or gear wheels, some are elements of furniture. The top of the square is uneven, the boxes having been arranged with two taller and three lower.

Gallery Text

Nevelson created commanding abstract sculptures assembled from bits of furniture and architectural fragments that she salvaged from the streets of New York. In her studio, she and her assistants put the pieces together using carpentry tools. Painted black and placed in an irregular organizing system of wooden crates and boxes, these urban scraps and containers take on a dramatic pictorial unity while simultaneously referencing their former use. Nevelson’s work draws on a rich history of found-object sculpture, from Marcel Duchamp’s readymades to surrealist assemblage. Like David Smith, Nevelson used modern construction materials to develop distinct forms of abstraction. Together their work opened a way for a younger generation of artists for whom mass-produced objects held more power than the painted canvas.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Louise Nevelson, American (Kyiv, Ukraine (formerly part of the Russian Empire) 1899 - 1988 New York, NY)
Total Totality II
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1110, Modern and Contemporary Art, Mid–century Abstraction II
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Physical Descriptions

Painted wood
258.13 x 429.9 x 24.77 cm (101 5/8 x 169 1/4 x 9 3/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Louise Nevelson, New York NY, Constructed, 1959, Sold to Richard H. Solomon.
Richard H. Solomon, New York NY, Purchased from Louise Nevelson, Gift to Fogg Art Museum, 1978.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Richard H. Solomon in honor of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney L. Solomon
© Estate of Louise Nevelson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Publication History

  • Louise Nevelson, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Houston, TX, 1969), no. 16, reproduced in b/w
  • Caroline A. Jones, Modern Art at Harvard: The Formation of the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press, 1985). With an essay by John Coolidge and a preface by John M. Rosenfield. To accompany the inaugural exhibition at the Sackler Museum, Oct 21 1985 - Jan 5 1986, reproduced in b/w fig. 95, p. 99

Exhibition History

  • Louise Nevelson, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, 10/23/1969 - 12/14/1969; University of Texas at Austin Art Museum, Austin, 01/15/1970 - 02/15/1970
  • Modern Art at Harvard, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/21/1985 - 01/05/1986
  • Shades of Significance: Tonal Value in Abstract Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/11/1993 - 02/25/1996
  • 32Q: 1110 Mid-Century Abstraction II (Post-Painterly Abstraction), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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