Manhattan frequently inspired Louise Nevelson. She saw the city as a monumental and ever-changing sculpture. “All I need is to feel New York coming through the wall,” she told a reporter the year this work was first exhibited. Composed of found wooden objects from lower Manhattan and seen in the round, Dawn’s Presence—Two Columns evokes a city-like perspective; just as buildings in a skyline appear to shift as the viewer walks around them.

Nevelson built her career on the color black, which first coated her monochromatic sculptures and wooden installations in the 1950s. She exhibited her first white-painted sculptural installation in 1960. The artist broke up the larger pieces of the installation and reintroduced them later as discrete sculptural works such as this—a frequent practice of hers. The artist first exhibited Dawn’s Presence—Two Columns in New York in 1976 as part of a larger work comprised of several loosely arranged sculptural towers. Nevelson explained, “If you paint a thing black or you paint a thing white, it takes on a whole different dimension. I feel that white permits a little something to enter . . . a little more light, just as you see it in the universe.”