April 7, 2017
A Non-Objective Couple: Sonia Gechtoff and James Kelly

The Anita Shapolsky Gallery is pleased to present "A Non-Objective Couple", an exhibition featuring husband and wife team Sonia Gechtoff and James Kelly. This exhibition features some of the remaining works of these artists' oeuvres.

As prime examples of the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism's raw, unique influence, Gechtoff and Kelly's experimental approaches are exemplary of the collective coolness of the Bay Area. A focus on smooth, otherworldly strokes permeate their works, in contrast to the faster movements and more vibrant palette of New York, where much of the cultural dialogue came from and where they eventually settled. Inspired by poetry, particularly by their contemporaries of the Beat generation, Gechtoff, Kelly, and their peers viewed painting as the visual component of literature, yet unlike their New York counterparts, emphasized this duality through allusions to distant figuration, swirling motifs, spiritual encounters, and visual representations of verbal expression in their paintings.

Originally from Philadelphia, Gechtoff and Kelly married in 1953 in San Francisco and moved to a loft on the legendary Fillmore Street, where contemporaries Jay DeFeo, Wally Hedrick, and Michael McClure also lived. They were active participants in the Beat scene, and exhibited at King Ubu Gallery on 3119 Fillmore Street, one of the several locations where the heartbeat pulsed.

Both had a deep affection for the tactile qualities of paint, and a sensual connection to its application, sometimes utilizing their palette knives much like a pastry chef would apply icing to a cake. Sonia Gechtoff was a close friend of Ernest Briggs and Deborah Remington, two acclaimed second generation abstract expressionists. Gechtoff's later works include loose horizon lines, which the artist says were inspired by her proximity to nature. Her strokes evolved into forms evoking flickering flames, combining her tactile palette-based strokes into more contained compositions.

Kelly's first encounter with Van Gogh catalyzed his obsession with impasto techniques, which earned him a solid place in the cannon of the time. His handle on physicality, playfulness, and movement, tied to his continuing references to poetic culture, enmeshed him into the dynamic group of second generation abstract expressionists. Many artists in their network would, through sustained exposure to New York's booming network, relocate eastward towards the end of the 1950's. They also moved to New York City in 1958.

At 90 years of age, Gechtoff continues her painting and resides in New York City. Throughout their careers, the couple participated actively in not only contributing to the dialogue of 20th century visual art, but cementing the importance of the how influential the West coast Abstract Expressionist scene was to the movement as a whole.

Sonia Gechtoff (b. 1926) is considered one of the most influential female abstract expressionists. Her father was a painter, and introduced her to socialist realism at a young age. In 1950, she completed her BFA at what is now the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and moved to California the following year to study lithography with James Budd Dixon at what is now the San Francisco Art Institute. She was greatly inspired by Clyfford Still. Through her exploration of the movement crafted her signature style; using a loaded palette knife to create vibrant, gestural strokes at large scales. In 1957, she was given her first solo exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles.

In 1958, Gechtoff won a place at the Brussels World's Fair. She was a recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 1989, 1994, and 1998, and received the Lee Krasner Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Gechtoff is one of the twelve women featured in the traveling Denver Art Museum exhibition, "Women of Abstract Expressionism", curated by Gwen Chanzit. Gechtoff is part of numerous museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Denver Art Museum.

James Kelly (1913-2003) had a career which spanned nearly seven decades, including paintings and graphic works. While his work in his native Philadelphia had more of a geometric quality, inspired by Piet Mondrian, his move to California in 1950 changed his style to more gestural, using thick impasto oil paint and swirling motifs common of the San Francisco scene.

Kelly studied at the School of Industrial Arts, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, Philadelphia, as well as the Barnes Foundation and the San Francisco Art Institute. He has exhibited widely throughout the United States, and received grants from the Ford Foundation in 1963 and the National Endowment for the Arts in 1977. Kelly's work is part of many permanent collections including the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Los Angeles Museum of Art, the Harvard University Art Museum, the Pasadena Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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January 17, 2017
Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts
J. Willard Marriott Library
The University of Utah, 01/17/2017

The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library will host the art exhibition Globalocation: Celebrating 20 Years of Artnauts, Jan. 20-March 3.

Artnauts, an art collective formed 20 years ago by George Rivera, professor of art and art history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, consists of 300 global artists who serve as goodwill ambassadors, acknowledging and supporting victims of oppression worldwide. Their creativity has generated over 230 exhibitions across five continents. Five faculty members from the U’s Department of Art and Art History are members of the collective, Sandy Brunvand, Beth Krensky, V. Kim Martinez, Brian Snapp and Xi Zhang.

Globalocation derives from “Globalocational Art” — a concept used by the Artnauts to refer to their exhibitions in international venues. It is the mission of the Artnauts to take art to places of contention, and this anniversary exhibition is a sample of places where they have been and themes they have addressed.

“The Artnauts could not exist without the commitment of the artists in the collective to a common vision of the transformative power of art,” said Rivera. “The Artnauts make their contribution with art that hopefully generates a dialogue with an international community on subjects that are sometimes difficult to raise.”

Krensky, associate department chair of the Art and Art History Department, had the opportunity to travel with Rivera in Chile as part of an Artnauts project, working with mothers who were searching for their children who had mysteriously disappeared during a time of political unrest.

“When I travelled to Chile in 1998, George and I spent an afternoon with the Mothers of the Disappeared, and the meeting changed my life,” said Krensky. “It was from that moment on that I placed a picture of them on my desk to look at every day. I was so moved by what they each had lost — a son, a brother, a father — and yet what remained for them was a deep, deep well of love. They were fierce warriors and stood up to the government to demand the whereabouts and information of the people who had disappeared, but they lived within profound love.”

The 20th anniversary exhibition at the Marriott Library is a retrospective of the traveling works the Artnauts have toured around the globe. The exhibition will be located on level three of the library. The opening reception is open to the public and will be held on Friday, Jan 20, 4-6 p.m. Rivera will speak at 4 p.m.

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