Seymour Fogel is recognized as a major influence in the development of Texas Modern art. But he was actually a native New Yorker and a respected insider of the New York artist community his entire life. After finishing up his formal studies in that city in 1932, he obtained an apprenticeship with the Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. At the time, Rivera was one of the most renowned artists in both the United States and Mexico and was working on a mural in Rockefeller Center. Although now he’s most famous for being the husband of the surrealist painter Frida Kahlo.
While working for Rivera in 1933, Fogel met another artist who signed on as an apprentice to Rivera, a young woman named Louise Nevelson. We know Fogel and Nevelson knew each other because that year Fogel produced a rather intense portrait of Nevelson, which you can find online. She is not smiling and gazes directly at the viewer, with tired eyes and a downturn mouth. It’s interesting to note that she was estranged from her husband at the time and having a rather public affair with Rivera. His wife, Frida, suspected this, and needless to say, the two women did not get along. The opposite was true for Frida and Fogel, however; there are photographs of the two of them sitting side by side and smiling.
Louise Nevelson became quite well known in her lifetime. She created large sculptures, primarily out of wood, but also incorporated found objects from the New York City streets. She nearly always spray painted them a single color, mostly black at first, then white and gold later on. Some she called totems because they were inspired by structures made by Native Americans in Central America and the Pacific Northwest.
Seymour Fogel’s Red Platform is undeniably a nod to Nelson’s totem structures. Fogel moved back from Austin to New York in 1959, when Nelson’s totems were receiving a lot of attention from the New York art scene. Although created 20 years later with Red Platform, Fogel chose to create a somewhat diminutive tower of wood and found objects and painted a solid color. The year it was made, 1979. Nevelson was a true art celebrity in the city, and the connection between Red Platform and her work would have been unmistakable. By that time, Fogel was living and working in Connecticut, but still had a strong presence in New York.