Atmosphere and Environment XII (1970)

by Louise Nevelson (1899 - 1988)

Photo Caption: Photo Gregory Benson © 2019 for the Association for Public Art
  • Title

    Atmosphere and Environment XII

  • Artist

    Louise Nevelson (1899 - 1988)

  • Year

    1970; purchased 1971; installed 1973; relocated 2019

  • Location

    University of Pennsylvania, Shoemaker Green (east of 33rd Street between Walnut and Spruce Streets)

  • Medium

    Cor-Ten steel, on granite base

  • Dimensions

    Height 18’3″; width 10′; depth 5′ (base height 2’6″)

  • Themes

    Women and Public Art

Purchased by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)

Owned by the Association for Public Art, on long-term loan to the University of Pennsylvania

At A Glance

  • *Atmosphere and Environment XII has been relocated from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the University of Pennsylvania’s campus

  • Louise Nevelson is one of the most influential artists of the decades following World War II

  • She is known for her wall-like sculptures painted in one color and incorporating a myriad of abstract forms

  • Atmosphere and Environment XII is made of 18,000 pounds of Cor-Ten steel

  • Another example of Nevelson’s work in Philadelphia is Bicentennial Dawn

>>PRESS RELEASE: Association for Public Art Relocates Multi-Ton Nevelson and Epstein Sculptures from Philadelphia Museum of Art to University of Pennsylvania

Atmosphere and Environment - bronze geometric Louise Nevelson sculpture with trees around it
Photo Gregory Benson © 2019 for the Association for Public Art

Atmosphere and Environment XII is a product of the mature style of Louise Nevelson, one of the most influential artists of the decades following World War II. In the late 1950s, Nevelson conceived of wooden collage “environments,” wall-like sculptures painted entirely in one color and incorporating a myriad of abstract forms. Her interest in theater influenced both her concept of sculpture-as-environment and her use of vertical structures resembling stage sets.

Within the cubes are additional geometrical shapes, and the entire openwork composition seems to echo the landscape of a modern city.

Made of 18,000 pounds of Cor-Ten steel, which gradually weathers to form its own patina, Atmosphere and Environment XII consists of six columns of open rectangular cubes bolted together. Within the cubes are additional geometrical shapes, and the entire openwork composition seems to echo the landscape of a modern city.

Installing Louise Nevelson bronze geometric sculpture, Atmosphere and Environment
Installing Atmosphere and Environment XII at the University of Pennsylvania in July 2019. The sculpture was relocated from the Philadelphia Museum of Art due to renovations. Photo Gregory Benson © 2019 for the Association for Public Art

After exhibitions in France and New York, the sculpture was purchased by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) in 1971 and installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s West Entrance in 1973. The artwork underwent comprehensive conservation treatment in 2007 by the Conservation Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in cooperation with the Association for Public Art, with support from the federal Save America’s Treasures program, the Getty Foundation, and the Locks Foundation. In July 2019, Atmosphere and Environment XII was relocated to the University of Pennsylvania – on long-term loan from the Association for Public Art – to accommodate extensive renovations at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Other sculptures in the Atmosphere and Environment series are located at the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Princeton University, Yale University Art Gallery, and Scottsdale, AZ. Another example of Nevelson’s work in Philadelphia is Bicentennial Dawn (1976) at the James A. Byrne Federal Courthouse (interior).

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

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