David Richard Gallery presents Hidden Figures: Abstract Expressionist Women Painters in New York and California, 1950s and 60s, an exhibition of paintings by Sonia Gechtoff, Nina Tryggvadottir, Beate Wheeler and Anthe Zacharias. This presentation focuses on paintings that were made during seminal periods in each of the artist’s careers as they transitioned from the West coast to the East coast in the US, or in the case of Tryggvadottir, her trans-Atlantic move from Europe back to New York. The gallery represents each of the artists and this will be the inaugural exhibitions with the gallery for Gechtoff, Wheeler and Zacharias and the second exhibition for Tryggvadottir.
Initially, this exhibition was conceived as an online presentation during the holidays. However, after receiving so much interest and numerous requests to view the paintings in person, we are opening the new year with this presentation on the ground floor of our gallery on East 121st Street in New York.
These four women artists developed their signature visual language early in their careers. The sources of inspiration and techniques developed by each artist were distinct, yet similarly rooted in the aesthetic milieu of Abstract Expressionism. Each painted for six decades, with the exception of Tryggvadottir who died young in 1968. Tryggvadottir had a robust thirty-year professional career that was both productive and, like the other women artists, challenging.
Most recently, Gechtoff’s paintings were included in the very important exhibition, Women of Abstract Expressionism at the Denver Museum of Art in 2016 that subsequently traveled to the Mint Museum and the Palm Springs Museum of Art in 2017.
All four women studied under notable and respected artists and scholars; they were peers and enjoyed friendships with other important artists of the time. However, the recognition of their technical, aesthetic and historical significance did not happen contemporaneously. While each remained passionately committed to their painting practice and abstract art, their careers did not fully develop in New York. Zacharias and Wheeler became more reclusive in the 1970s and content to work in their studios, while Gechtoff pushed ahead and tried to remain active in galleries and the local scene.
Wheeler and Zacharias lived and studied in New York and Gechtoff was from Philadelphia. Each made their way to the Bay Area for work and studies, then each retuned to New York in the late 1950s. Tryggvadottir, originally from Iceland, came to the US in 1943, only to be deported in 1949 during the “Red Scare” and then returned to New York in 1959. Thus, each artist had an East / West bi-coastal or trans-Atlantic change in geography during seminal periods in their careers that had a significant impact on their critical recognition and commercial success.
On the cultural and historical fronts, there are several connections between the women. Gechtoff and Wheeler were among the first and life-long residents of Westbeth Artists Housing in the West Village of Manhatttan. Also, Gechtoff and Tryggvadottir both had direct ties to the New York School of artists. In 1954, Gechtoff was included in the exhibition, “Younger American Painters” and her work presented alongside Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Gechtoff was also very close to many of the members of the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism who had numerous affiliations with the New York School. Tryggvadottir and her husband Alopley were part of the New York School and close friends with and colleagues of the other founding members.