In August and September, 2003, the Parrish Art Museum will present
Costantino Nivola at Springs, an exhibition of approximately 35 sculptures and collages produced at his studio
in Springs near East Hampton. It will feature the large-scale maquettes made for the
Olivetti showroom reliefs that are now installed in the General Science Building at
Harvard University. This is a project that explicitly relates to the Parrish Art Museum's
mission of exploring American art, with particular focus on artists who have lived and
worked on the East End of Long Island. Nivola's sandcast reliefs were produced at his
studio and at a nearby beach, so that the actual material itself is of the region.
Costantino Nivola (1911-1988) was one of the founding artists of Springs in the 1940s, purchasing 35 acres in 1948. (Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, who lived a few miles away, came in 1945.) He lived and worked there until his death. Much admired by art and architectural historians of the period, his work is still relatively unknown to the general public in the United States. Two small shows have been held in Long Island in the past thirty years and a large retrospective was held in Milan in 1999-2000. Although a substantial catalogue was published for the Milan exhibition none of the four monographs on Nivola is in English.
Nivola was born in 1911, to a working class family in Sardinia. Soon after graduating from art school in 1936, he became the art director for the Olivetti Company, which was known at the time for its progressive marketing and design. Unfortunately, a few years later, the Italian government of Mussolini enacted its anti-Semitic racial laws, and Nivola and his wife, Ruth Guggenheim, were forced to emigrate. They arrived in the United States in 1939. Throughout the 1940s, Nivola worked successfully as an art director and graphic designer. At the same time, he became active in the New York scene. In 1948 he purchased his home in Springs, and in 1949 began making the sandcast murals that are his best known work. Although the scale and materials vary in Nivola's work, a consistent sensibility appears. His abstract imagery recalls Neolithic sculpture from several cultures, with a kind of archetypal, Jungian resonance. At the same time, Nivola's sculpture has a witty, ironic quality, a sense that in spite of "primitive" forces at work in the psyche, the artist is still a modern, self-aware, urban creature. This exhibition will give some sense of the range of Nivola's sculptural work, from large, sandcast reliefs, to small bronzes and casual little sculptures made from tin and copper, to elegantly carved marble and wood, all conceived with intense imagination and delicate craftsmanship. Organized by The Parrish Art Museum, Micaela Martegani, Robert Lehman Curator.
The Parrish Art Museum25 Job's Lane
Southampton, New York 11968