Drawings from the early 1960's by Sonia Gechtoff on view at Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art
Ma7 22, 2017
Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art is presenting, “Drawings from the Early 1960’s”, an exhibition of select drawings from the vibrant Abstract Expressionist, Sonia Gechtoff. Born in 1926 in Philadelphia, Gechtoff arrived in San Francisco in 1951 and became immersed in a potent mix of artists, poets and jazz musicians feeding off each others’ energy. Here she shared her social and professional life with such famous Bay Area artists as Hassel Smith, Jay DeFeo, Philip Roeber, Madeleine Diamond, Julius Wasserstein, Ernest Briggs, Elmer Bischoff, Byron McClintock, Deborah Remington and her husband, James Kelly.
It was an exciting time to be an artist and an exhibition that included the work of Clyfford Still inspired her to try her hand at abstraction. She was enthralled by the expansiveness in his paintings and felt she could more fully develop her own concepts in that style. In her own words, “The whole idea of painting for it’s own sake and that the idea of searching for an image went out the window. It was like opening a huge door.” Also, the fact that female abstract expressionists in San Francisco did not face the same discrimination as their New York counterparts helped. There was a transparency present, and lack of inhibition which Gechtoff thrived in.
From that point on, Gechtoff began working on large-scale oil paintings containing expressive gestural brushwork that would become her signature voice. Using a palette knife loaded with several colors, she applied vast sweeps of paint across her canvases in luscious, energetic full-body movements. She then applied this to another medium and from 1955 through the mid 60’s, produced a series of pencil drawings.
Gechtoff, working extensively with pencil, was unusual as most San Francisco Abstract Expressionists preferred the bolder effects of ink. But she thrived in the challenge of translating that same power and intensity, to a softer, more restricted medium. Many of the works in this exhibition share a racing jolt of line, often ejected in great profusion. Sometimes the line is strident and aggressive, while on other occasions it becomes an agitated scrawl. And yet, Gechtoff’s touch could also be soft and delicate, presenting a multitude of quivering, undulating strokes that sometimes suggests blades of grass stirred by a gentle breeze.
Sonia Gechtoff’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, San Francisco MOMA, the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Menil Collection, Houston, Texas, among many others. She has been exhibiting since 1948 and her most recent museum show, “ Women of Abstract Expressionism”, was organized by the Denver Art Museum. After the DAM, the exhibition travelled to the Mint Museum, Charlotte, and the Palm Springs Art Museum February 18–May 29, 2017. In conjunction with this drawing exhibit, the Anita Shapolsky Gallery, located at 152 East 65th street, is exhibiting “A Non-Objective Couple”, which focuses on paintings by Gechtoff and her late husband James Kelly.