Bruno Corà, Curator of the Louise Nevelson exhibition at the Cortesi Gallery, Lugano, was born in Rome in 1972. He has followed a long and distinguished career as an academic, including many years as Professor at the Pietro Vannucci Academy of Fine Art in Perugia, and as Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of Cassino. In addition he has been the President of the Burri Foundation, and served as Director of contemporary art centres in Pistoia, Prato and La Spezia. He has curated internationall Biennales in Dakar, Gubbio and La Spezia, in addition to numerous exhibitions work by prominent contemporary Italian artists. He has been active as a freelance writer for many years, having written over three hundred essays, as well as a number of monographs of prominent 20th century artists, including Enrico Castellani, Daniel Buren, Arnaldo Pomodoro and Alberto Burri. The exhibition of work by Louise Nevelson in Lugano follows other such exhibitions in Germany and Italy between 2013 and 2016. artBahrain contributing editor Richard Noyce interview Bruno Corà prior to the opening of the exhibition in Lugano.

Louise Nevelson is quoted as saying, “I’m not a feminist, I’m an artist who happens to be a woman.” Yet she is held to be one of the pioneers in opening out the art world to women artists. How relevant do you think this apparent dichotomy is in regard to her place in art history and her influence on the contemporary art world?

In a conversation I had in the 80s with Meret Oppenheim, the great surrealist artist, she told me that art is not male or female, but rather androgynous. Nevelson and Oppenheim stated the same thing in two different ways. To be “young”, “Chinese”, “woman”, “man” or anything for the matter, is not an artistic qualification but a living condition. Louise Nevelson contributed to the qualification of art in the 20th-century and beyond. Her work influenced every sensible person, irrespective of their condition.

Louise Nevelson’s assemblage works are predominantly finished in black, although she also produced major works in gold or white. The black works are notable for their creation of black shadows. She said, “Shadow is fleeting… and I arrest it and I give it a solid substance.” While these works can be seen to relate strongly to the historical circumstances in which they were made, do you think they still have a relevance for the present time?

Using shadows in a sculptural way is a concern that artists have had throughout the years, and especially in our century (as it is clear in the work of Giuseppe Uncini). Nevelson’s oeuvre is deeply connected with shadows, intended also as a characteristic and quality of memory; this dimension of fight against oblivion is very much current and ever more necessary, thus her works are certainly still relevant nowadays.

Through her links with some of the great names in 20th century art – studying with, among other artists, Hans Hoffman in Munich and New York, working with (and having an affair with) Diego Rivera in Mexico City – she was intimately connected to the currents of 20th century art. She also studied dance with Ellen Keavers for twenty years and produced a notable series of prints with June Wayne at the Tamarind Workshop in Los Angeles. How successful do you think she was at synthesising these and other influences, and in turn becoming a continuing influence on contemporary art?

Louise Nevelson’s artistic education is as complex as it is determined and steadfast. She is an artist who absorbed – like a sponge – every kind of experience, aesthetic and human, and turned it into a plastic and rhythmic sensibility that resulted in an authentic spatial dimension, new to other artists working with assemblage. Her contribution to monochromatic art after the 60s is as important as that she has given to frontal sculpture and minimalism.

Her place in Art in the USA is assured, but in Europe she is perhaps not as well known or regarded as she deserves to be. Is it time for a reassessment of her work and do you hope the exhibition you are curating at Cortesi Gallery will prove timely, drawing attention of today’s artists and art lovers to the power of Louise Nevelson’s work?

In my opinion, the exhibition at Cortesi Gallery will certainly foster the recognition of Nevelson’s work in Switzerland, in the same way that the exhibitions I curated in Frankfurt, Catania, Rome and Milan between 2013–2016 firmly stated the relevance of her contribution to art in those countries. After Italy, Germany and Switzerland, it will be necessary to bring the exhibition to France, Spain, Belgium, Scandinavia and east Europe. So there is still a lot to be done to spread awareness of her art.