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    Gwyneth Leech in The Family Business
    Courtesy of Susan Teller Gallery
    Gwyneth Leech

    Passing it down

    A classy group in The Family Business shows that nepotism can be a good thing.


    Artists are born, not made — that's what they say. And the winning premise of this show would bear that adage out. The exhibition draws on work from eight different families. From grandparents to parents, from in-laws to offspring, the show offers something to please everyone.

    Exhibition: The Family Business.
    July 13 - August 26, 2005
    Opening reception: July 21, 2005, 6:30-7:30

    Gallery: Susan Teller Gallery
    568 Broadway at Prince Street, Room 103A
    New York NY
    Hours: Tue.-Sat. 11-6
    Phone: (212) 941-7335

    Susan Teller Gallery has long been associated with W.P.A. era works and several of the artists in the show are part of the stable. In conjunction with the show, the gallery hosted a panel discussion with representatives of three generations. Ideas were flying back and forth — from Diego Rivera to Soviet Realism.

    The oldest artist included in the show is George Biddle whose lithograph, Poor Whites, is from 1932. His stylized figures crackle with excitement and authority and he captures the tenor of the times with verve and authenticity.

    Four other members of the Biddle family are included. All of the works are of a different medium, attesting to the variety of creativity that runs in artistic families. The most recent work is by Megan who is represented by an irregular shaped glass and wire wall hanging with a lyric effect.

    Lawrence A. Jones Mommy Wagon in The Family Business  
    Courtesy of Susan Teller Gallery  
    Lawrence A. Jones "Mommy Wagon"
    Five members of the Gallagher/Leech family are in The Family Business. Michael J. Gallagher was a popular printmaker in the W.P.A. His carborundum print, Lackawanna Valley depicts a woman apparently scavenging coal along the tracks. In the background a bleak industrial horizon festers under a cloudy sky. It was the depression after all, and when the W.P.A. ended, granddaughter Gwyneth Leech talked about hard times in their family. Still, she felt that it was, " inevitable I would be an artist, because somebody was always making something." Her sister Kitty seconded this sentiment saying that as a child, she was "surrounded by a plethora of art making activities, costumes, puppet-making... it seemed to me that an artist will do everything under the sun and never stop." Kitty started her career as a makeup artist with the Pennsylvania Ballet.

    Gwyneth was recently commissioned by St. Paul's on the Green in Norwalk, Connecticut, to do the Stations of the Cross. Following the dictum of Ezra Pound, to "Make it new," she overlaid imagery from the current bellicosity in Iraq onto traditional religious renderings. The results are strong and controversial. The figures have a force that is unpretentious and simple. The timelessness of the message is underscored by the currency. As for the craft and style, Gwyneth stated that she "came around to the point where my grandfather was for a while."

      Gallagher's carborundum print, "Lackawanna Valley" depicts a woman apparently scavenging coal along the tracks. In the background a bleak industrial horizon festers under a cloudy sky.
    Charles Keller (born in 1914) said that "Art has rules and you find your way through them like a blind mouse. The artist's job is to seek order out of chaos." His paintings here are good examples, especially an exquisite watercolor of peach baskets stacked in a roadside stand from 1954.

    Exquisite also are two abstract paintings by his granddaughter Martha Keller. Likewise, they illustrate his point about order and chaos. A row of variously black or lime green stripes are subject to amorphous blobs and stains. The balance is most appealing.

    The great Ben Shahn shows a large sketch of a steel worker. Along the left margin are union-related notes such as "crunch of horses hoofs [sic] on bodies of workers." Shahn's wife Bernarada Bryson Shahn was also extremely talented. Her print, 14th Street Entrepreneur from 1934 is at once humorous and hard-hitting. She chose to leave the fine arts and became a successful illustrator.

    It was a treat to meet their son Jonathan. His small bust of a young woman's head is dreamy — but real.

    All in all, this show is a summer treat: part history — part biology.

    JULY 27, 2005

    Reader comments on The Family Business:

  • Secret Ption   from Jacquelyn Hyde, Jul 28, 2005

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