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Gerson Leiber: Seven Decades of Making Art

The current exhibition at the Leiber Museum in Springs features an ambitious installation of works on paper by 89-year-old artist, Gerson Leiber. Over 200 drawings are hung edge-to-edge, covering the museum’s walls as high as eight feet, and present an all-encompassing display of gesture, color, tone and mark making.

Spend just a few moments scanning this installation of drawings and the seven decades Leiber has been studying and practicing art becomes more than apparent. His accomplished career as a printmaker is evident in the proficient mark making of these works, while a variety of cultural influences are hinted at both formally and in several titles. Recognizable styles, such as Cubism and Modernism, are playfully exercised in a number of works, while the language used in others seems unique. The works represent a variety of mediums, some adhering strictly to charcoal, others introducing gouache, chalk, oil stick, colored pencil and ink. This exhibition is particularly compelling because while the dynamic installation draws out the formal differences and similarities of each work, the overall effect is that of a single epic drawing, or Gesamtkunstwerk. [expand]

As Phyllis Braff aptly states in the exhibition’s catalog essay, “The very energetic, all-over configurations of expressive strokes appearing in many Leiber drawings have associations with Abstract Expressionism’s pioneering steps, yet they constantly test new dynamics. ‘Skateboarding Dialogue’ uses an extensive variety of lines and shapes as it spreads, then interrupts movement in a way that could convincingly parallel the real world. The grey-on-yellow ‘Untitled’ (2011) does this with noticeable subtlety, while “Embrace My Garden” strikes a bolder, impassioned rhythm.”

The sheer volume of drawings and their assertive presentation is alluring, but to know that all of the 232 works were created in just the past three years makes them all the more impressive. In 2009, the artist needed to move his city workspace from an outside studio to the apartment he shares with his wife, acclaimed accessories designer Judith Leiber. The transition was difficult and took well over a year, but Leiber was determined to continue his dedicated studio practice throughout the process.

In 1956, Gerson Leiber and his wife purchased a farmhouse in East Hampton, where the artist continues to live and work today. Leiber studied at the Art Students League, and later at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. He has exhibited his paintings, prints and sculpture widely and his work is included in major museum collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art, both in New York, The Boston and Philadelphia Museums, The Washington, D.C. National Gallery of Art and Guild Hall, East Hampton, where a retrospective of his work was shown in 2003.

Gerson and Judith Leiber built The Leiber Museum in 2005 to house their works of art and to chronicle their careers. Past exhibitions have featured the Leibers’ personal collection of antique Chinese porcelains and rare Japanese prints, as well as works by Will Barnet. An ongoing display of Judith Leiber’s renowned handbags is permanently on view.

The Leiber Museum is located at 446 Old Stone Highway in East Hampton and is open to the public free of charge from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. [/expand]

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