FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Oil on canvas
55 x 58"
© Nancy Genn
Painting on the Edges of America Since the 1950s. Five Bay Area Women Painters: SONIA GECHTOFF NANCY GENN MARGE RECTOR BEATE WHEELER ANTHE ZACHARIAS June 6 - July 14, 2023 Opening reception: Saturday, June 10, 2023 from 2:00 - 5:00 PM Chelsea, New York at 526 W 26 ST, Suite 5C David Richard Gallery, LLC 526 West 26th Street, Suite 311 | New York, NY 10001 P: (212) 882-1705 www.davidrichardgallery.com Private viewings are available by appointment, please call or email the gallery to schedule. Click here to view the exhibition
The five women artists in this exhibition, Sonia Gechtoff, Nancy Genn, Marge Rector, Beate Wheeler, and Anthe Zacharias, all have the Bay Area as a common thread tying them together. More important, they lived and worked in the Bay Area during seminal periods in their respective careers. Their unique experiences and learnings profoundly influenced and informed their artworks, including the aesthetics, compositions, processes and methods of applying paint to a canvas, as well as forming the ethos of their artworks and careers.
The early influences of the Bay Area on each of these women, to varying degrees, included: institutions such as the California School of Fine Arts (currently, San Francisco Art Institute), UC Berkeley, De Young Museum, and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; their teachers and mentors, including Clyfford Still, Milton Resnick, and Claire Falkenstein; gallerists and curators such as Walter Hopps, Edward Kienholz, and Irving Blum (each of the Ferus Gallery at different times in its history), Jim Newman (Dilexi Gallery), Nick Wilder Gallery, and 6 Gallery (Deborah Remington was a founding member); and last, but not least, life-long friendships with Jay De Feo, Sonya Rapoport, Debora Remington, Ernest Briggs, Wally Hedrick, Peter Voulkos, Jack Zajac, Mark di Suvero, and Sam Francis.
The exhibition title, Painting on the Edges of America Since the 1950s, Five Bay Area Women Painters, reflects the bi-coastal careers of several of the artists, specifically Gechtoff, Wheeler and Zacharias. Each of those women had lived on the east coast of the US, Philadelphia and New York, respectively, prior to moving to the Bay Area and each ultimately moved to New York following their time in California. Genn was born, educated, lived, raised a family, and worked in the East Bay her entire life and continues to produce new bodies of work in the same studio. Rector moved from Texas to Sausalito in the 1970s, then worked and lived in California the rest of her life. Each artist, except for Anthe Zacharias, had and raised children during their professional artistic careers.
The 15 paintings presented in this exhibition, three by each artist, do not always represent paintings produced in the Bay Area per se, due mostly to limited availability. However, the paintings by Genn and possibly one by Zacharias were painted in the Bay Area. The paintings selected for this presentation represent iconic and important aspects of each artist’s oeuvre as influenced by their time spent and career experiences and/or learnings while in the Bay area.
David Richard Gallery is pleased to present this exhibition, Painting on the Edges of America Since the 1950s, Five Bay Area Women Painters: Sonia Gechtoff, Nancy Genn, Marge Rector, Beate Wheeler, and Anthe Zacharias and represents each of these artists and their artworks.
The Aesthetics of The Paintings:
Each of these painters emerged and began their professional careers in the 1950s during the period of Abstract Expressionism. Each lived and worked in the Bay Area or nearby during important and productive periods in their careers that impacted their respective studio practices.
Gechtoff arrived in San Francisco in 1951, working on very large canvases and developing a unique method of applying thick, impasto layers of pigment with forceful, full-bodied downward strokes using a palette knife. She worked and meticulously painted every square inch of the canvas with thoughtful and deliberate strokes that sculpted the surface with layers of overlapping paint that produced, in the words of the New York Times critic Dore Ashton, “a surface similar to the overlapping feathers of a wet bird.”  Centrally located focal points were surrounded with detailed grounds that evoked forces of nature, such as water, wind, fire, and smoke. Later in her career, the forces of nature moved from the background and became the subject of her paintings coinciding with her shift to acrylic paint applied with brushes. At the same time, Gechtoff also introduced her unique twist of drawing with graphite on the surfaces of the paintings to provide the lusciousness, depth, and perceived dimensionality that she missed from impasto applications of oil medium. The drawing with graphite on acrylic paint became an iconic feature in nearly all of Gechtoff’s artworks from the 1960s and onward.
Genn’s early Abstract Expressionist paintings were very much influenced by Michel Tapié, a critic, theorist and painter known for his influences on Tachisme, an approach to expressionistic painting in France in the 1950s and 60s. Along with Dubuffet and Breton, Tapié founded the Compagnie de l’Art Brut. Tapié is also credited with L’art Informel by way of his book, “Art of Another Kind”, published in 1952 describing a style of art making in Europe, and more specifically “action paining” and “lyrical abstraction”, in response to American Abstract Expressionism. In Michel Tapié’s seminal publication, Morphologie Autre, 1960, he located Nancy Genn’s artworks alongside those of Carla Accardi, Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana and Emilio Vedova.
Asian influences of calligraphy also had a tremendous impact on Genn’s lyrical flowing brush strokes in her early 1950s and 60s paintings as she emulated mark making with full use of the artist’s hand. The natural world, in particular color and light and their interplay with water, plant surfaces, and atmospheric elements such as fog, inspired her layering of translucent layers of color to create geometric shapes and framing devices. Combined with her lyrical brush marks of closer and/or thicker brush strokes, they morphed into translucent planes of color replicating what the artist saw as she looked westward from the East Bay across the water towards San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean.
Rector’s early paintings, mostly from the 1960s, were geometric with a range of influences from blocky, rigorously hard edge, and modernist to circular, curvilinear, and optical. Black and white was her preferred palette at that time. In the 1970s she moved to color and from thereon explored the interaction of color, light and surface by using additives, such as sand, and various methods of application, including brushing, staining, and pouring. The selected colors and compositions strongly referenced nature as well as Color Field painting. Rector was also very inventive, and possibly inspired by Lucio Fontana, when she created paintings with two canvases stretched about an inch apart from one another. All over curvaceous line drawings were painted with thin perfect lines and specifically filled with a narrow color palette on the top canvas, then segments of the top canvas were perfectly excised from the composition to reveal the blank canvas behind. The removed segments were barely noticeable upon first glance but created an intrigue and literal depth to the painting by revealing the interior of the painting.
Wheeler and Zacharias separately moved from New York to the Bay Area to study at UC Berkeley. Initially, they did not know one another, but both met Mark di Suvero and other artists who would later move to New York in the early 1960s and form the artist cooperative and exhibition space named Park Place in Lower Manhattan. However, those years at UC Berkeley were pivotal for both.
Wheeler studied with Milton Resnick. She had an intuitive sense for color, including their adjacent interactions and optical mixing. Her method of applying pigment was with the brush and controlled mark making that ranged from small dabs to a thick ark or large patch. Up close, the paintings read as thousands of independent, individual marks, but from a distance, they read more ethereal and as Color Field passages melding and morphing from one color to the other. One cannot avoid seeing nature and gardens in her pictures as well as the influence of Impressionistic masters.
Zacharias had a more physical approach using both fully loaded brushes and palette knifes to generously apply pigment in oil medium as large swaths of impasto color, sometimes with gritty surfaces, but always with controlled and contained palettes. Later, wanting to be even more physical, exploring more color and color interactions as well as having more complexity in her paintings, Zacharias moved to pouring on large, oversize canvases, mixing the colors in place by shaking and shimmying the puddled paint on the surface, dousing them with dry pigment at times, and later, folding and peeling the canvases on themselves to create very trippy and optical compositions.
About Each Artist:
Sonia Gechtoff (1926 – 2018):
After graduating in 1950 from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Gechtoff moved to San Francisco in 1951 where she was greatly influenced by the painting of Clyfford Still. She taught at the California School of Fine Art working alongside Hassel Smith and Elmer Bischoff and associated with other Bay Area Abstract Expressionist painters such as Madeleine Diamond, Lilly Fenichel, Deborah Remington, Jay DeFeo and James Kelly, who she married.
The move to San Francisco was productive and garnered her much critical attention. In 1954 she 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, New York. Gechtoff had the first solo exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in 1957. She was included in the US Pavillion at the 1958 Brussels World Fair as well as the “Annual” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. San Francisco had a tremendous positive impact on Gechtoff and where she had many career achievements, such as developing her bold use of the palette knife to create long, thick, and intentional strokes of pigment across the canvas yielding her the corresponding early recognition with solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Art (currently SFMoMA) and the De Young Museum. Gechtoff moved to New York in 1958 and worked there until she passed away in early 2018.
Nancy Genn (b 1929):
Born in California, studied at UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute, Genn is the only artist in this presentation who spent her entire artistic career in the Bay Area. An accomplished, multi-disciplined artist, she has had a productive and successful career with 15 solo exhibitions in US and international museums, including major retrospective exhibitions: Planes of Light, 2003, curated by Jacquelin Pillar at the Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, CA and Architecture from Within, 2018, at Palazzo Ferro Fini, Venice, Italy. Her artworks are included in 31 museum and foundation collections.
Genn’s artwork was, and still is, very much inspired by her love of the natural world, especially the interaction between the light through the filtering of the fog in the Bay Area and reflecting off the coastal waters, Architecture was a strong influence, adding geometric dimensions and elements as she viewed the Pacific Ocean through portals and bridges as well as around San Francisco urban structures across the bay. Asian influences in her personal life and travels brought calligraphy and mark making front and center throughout her studio practice. Genn has also produced sculpture of cast metals in varying sizes, almost always inspired by nature and plant forms, such as leaves, branches, and vines throughout her career. Enjoying physical aspects of art making as well as painting, in the 1980s she produced a wide range and extensive number of handmade papers that read as wall reliefs as well as impasto paintings. She returned to painting the end of the 1980s following an inspiring trip to Patagonia.
Marge Rector (1929 – 2019):
Rector dedicated her fifty-year career to painting non-objective abstractions. Trained as a commercial artist, she received her BA degree from Texas Technological College (currently, Texas Tech) in 1950 and worked professionally in that field until 1964. At that time, Rector decided to pursue a career in fine art and studied at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Emerging from her studies about the time of the Op Art movement and that seminal exhibition, The Responsive Eye, presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965 and organized by William C. Seitz, Rector could not help but be influenced by the hard-edge structures, dizzying lines, geometric forms and high key and high contrast colors that created optical and illusory effects challenging visual perception. She exhibited in 1970 at the Butler Institute of American Art Annual Show in Youngstown, Ohio and regularly in solo and group exhibitions with Atelier Chapman Kelly in Dallas until she moved to Sausalito in 1973 where she lived and worked until her passing in 2019. While in Sausalito, her painting practice expanded to explore new mediums, shapes, compositions and palettes, but always staying focused on non-objective abstraction.
Beate Wheeler (1932 – 2017):
Beate Wheeler, born in Germany in 1932, fled with her family in 1938 and arrived at Ellis Island in New York. She studied at Manumit in Pawling, New York until 1945, an experimental Christian socialist boarding school for refugee children. After receiving her BFA degree at Syracuse in 1954, Wheeler earned her MFA at the University of California, Berkeley under Abstract Expressionist painter, Milton Resnick. While in the Bay area, she met Mark di Suvero and the two moved to the East Village in New York. Together with Robert Beauchamp, Elaine de Kooning and Patricia Passlof, they formed the March Gallery, one of the eight galleries and artist cooperatives that were known as the 10th Street Galleries.
Wheeler married the writer and artist Spencer Holst. They were some of the early residents at the Westbeth Artists Housing in New York’s West Village. Wheeler lived and worked there the rest of her life. She painted regularly and produced drawings and artworks for Spencer’s publications. She exhibited primarily at the Westbeth galleries and had many dedicated private collectors, including Nelson A. Rockefeller. Following a 15-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, she passed away May 14, 2017.
Anthe Zacharias (b 1934):
Zacharias was born in Albania. Her parents immigrated to the United States and she grew up in New York on the west side of Manhattan in Hell’s Kitchen. She attended Queen’s College from 1952 to 1956 where her peers included Feminist artist Dee Shapiro and Mario Yrisarry of the Pattern and Decoration movement. She studied under art historian Robert Goldwater as well as John Ferren and Barse Miller. She then went to the University of California, Berkeley, where she met Mark di Suvero and studied with George McNeil and Erle Loran, receiving her M.F.A in 1957.
Returning to New York, Zacharias exhibited at the legendary March Gallery in the late 1950s and early 1960s alongside di Suvero and received recognition and mention form Dore Ashton. Between 1960 to 1968, she lived and painted in an old sea captain’s residence at Coentis Slip near South Ferry in Lower Manhattan in the same area as some of the most renowned figures in the art scene of that time: Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly, Mark di Suvero, Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist and Robert Indiana.
In the mid-60s, Zacharias exhibited at the Great Jones Gallery along with Louise Bourgeois and in the early 1970s, at Green Mountain Gallery in SoHo in Lower Manhattan. In the mid-1970s, Zacharias became reclusive and avoided exhibiting in galleries. However, she continued to paint every day in her studio and evolve her own visual language and experimental methods of application on new and novel supports. During the 1980s through 2000, she was closely associated with Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens, working with local children’s groups and teaching. She worked on two large commissions for Socrates Sculpture Park, including a brightly colored 35-foot mural. In 2006, Zacharias contributed a work to the "Peace Tower" shown at the Whitney Biennial of that same year. She continues to paint, albeit on a much smaller scale.
 Dore Ashton, "Art: Western Abstracts; Sonia Gechtoff, San Francisco Painter, Shows Work at Poindexter Gallery," New York Times, March 31, 1959.
About David Richard Gallery:
In 2015 David Richard Gallery launched DR Art Projects to provide a platform for artists of all stripes—international, national, local, emerging and established—to present special solo projects or to participate in unique collaborations or thematic exhibitions. The goal is to offer a fresh look at contemporary art practice from a broad spectrum of artists and presentations. The Gallery opened its current location in New York in 2017.
Since its inception in 2010, David Richard Gallery has produced museum quality exhibitions that feature Post War abstraction in the US. The presentations have addressed specific decades and geographies as well as certain movements and tendencies. While the gallery has long been recognized as an important proponent of post-1960s abstraction—including both the influential pioneers as well as a younger generation of practitioners in this field—in keeping with this spirit of nurture and development the gallery also presents established artists who embrace more gestural and representational approaches to the making of art as well as young emerging artists.
All Artwork Copyright © Sonia Gechtoff, Nancy Genn, Marge Rector, Beate Wheeler, and Anthe Zacharias All Courtesy David Richard Gallery. All Photographs by Yao Zu Lu
Hiroshige Revisited II
Acrylic on canvas
55 x 39"
Acrylic on canvas
107 x 71 x 1.75 inches
Oil on canvas
36 x 40"
Acrylic on canvas
50.25 x 46"