Sidney Felsen, co-founder of Gemini G.E.L., has died


Sidney B. Felsen, beloved co-founder of the seminal Los Angeles printmaking workshop Gemini G.E.L., died of renal failure on Sunday at his residence in L.A. He was 99.

“Richard Serra as soon as stated, ‘Sidney prefers to rush slowly,’ and we predict that captured him completely,” Felsen’s spouse, Joni Weyl, and daughter, Suzanne Felsen, wrote in an announcement to The Instances.

Felsen and the late Stanley Grinstein, USC fraternity brothers, helped spark a nationwide printmaking revival within the mid-’60s when they began Gemini G.E.L. as a humble place for native artists to socialize, trade concepts and create.

The Melrose Avenue artists’ workshop and lithography writer, which opened its doorways in 1966, took off quick, attracting the likes of Josef Albers, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, Roy Lichtenstein and others, who produced items of recent printmaking historical past there through the years.

Serra, who made greater than 320 prints at Gemini, referred to as Felsen a muse in tribute remarks on the Hammer Gala honoring Felsen and Weyl in 2004. Serra died earlier this yr.

“Printmaking is a cult carried out by practitioners who are suffering from occasional nervousness, who demand steering and help and affected person collaboration, who want a witness to look at the method from the beginning, a witness who understands how the mark will be remodeled and reproduced to evoke the printed picture,” Serra stated. “It’s not possible to perform this transformation with no information, an overseer, a producer. Sidney Felsen is all of that. … I want to consider Sidney as a muse somewhat than a producer; the assimilation of his aura a stimulant to the method … [and] taking pictures is Sidney’s method of watching over us, not watching us.”

Identified for its openness to innovation, Gemini drew artists from each coasts, who usually gathered there for artwork openings or for raucous, all-night events on the Grinstein residence. The sense of group facilitated relationships amongst artists and helped give kind to an in any other case free and geographically sprawling, nascent L.A. artwork scene within the ‘60s and ‘70s.

When Gemini turned 50 years outdated — and Felsen was 92 — the Los Angeles County Museum of Artwork offered a survey exhibition, organized by the Nationwide Gallery of Artwork in Washington, D.C., of Gemini works from 1966 to 2014. “The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L.” illustrated Felsen and Grinstein’s imaginative and prescient of boundary-pushing experimentation within the printmaking subject in addition to the weird collaboration at Gemini between artists and printers.

However early on, Felsen stated, he by no means imagined his little print workshop would quantity to such significance.

“It was innocence,” the soft-spoken Felsen instructed The Instances in 2016. “We thought it was gonna be a interest, that it will be enjoyable to hold across the artists, possibly construct up a set.”

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Stanley Grinstein, left, and Sidney Felsen in 2006 inside Felsen’s Gemini workplace that includes his pictures on the wall.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Instances)

Born in Chicago on Sept. 3, 1924, to folks who owned and operated a grocery retailer, Felsen’s household moved to L.A. for the nice and cozy climate when he was an adolescent. He had an older sister, the late Shirley Trott. Felsen attended Fairfax Excessive College on Melrose, not removed from the place Gemini would ultimately take root.

Felsen went into the military after highschool, the place he was stationed in Europe. When he returned to the U.S., he attended USC as an accounting main.

Earlier than opening Gemini, Felsen — a notably dapper dresser who fancied a wide-brimmed straw Panama hat and wire-rimmed glasses in his later years — labored as an accountant by day. However he additionally took portray and ceramics courses for enjoyable within the evenings at Chouinard Artwork Institute, which might later develop into CalArts.

He met his first spouse, the longtime, former gallerist Rosamund Felsen, by associates at a celebration within the late ‘50s. The 2 had one daughter, Suzanne Felsen, in 1961. Rosamund additionally had three kids from a earlier marriage, whom Felsen helped to boost. The 2 divorced in the mid-’70s.

Felsen met and fell in love with Weyl, who labored within the gross sales division at Gemini G.E.L., within the late-‘70s. They married within the mid-’80s.

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Joni Weyl and Sidney Felsen stand with David Hockney’s portrait “Sid and Joni Seated at Desk” (2005). The work was a part of the 2018 LACMA exhibition “82 Portraits and 1 Nonetheless-life.”

(Los Angeles County Museum of Artwork)

Felsen was additionally a expert newbie photographer. He acquired a Kodak Retina for his bar mitzvah in 1937, and it set off a lifelong ardour for the artwork of pictures. Over greater than a half-century of working Gemini, Felsen additionally photographed the artists who streamed by. He shot on a rangefinder digicam, due to its silent, unobtrusive shutter, as he captured artists at work and at play.

In 2003, Felsen printed a set of these pictures within the espresso desk e-book “The Artist Noticed.” In 2018, Gemini offered “The Artist Noticed,” an exhibition of greater than 200 of Felsen’s photos, culled from about 2,000 negatives.

“For most likely the primary 10 years, it was actually simply working with artists that you simply knew had been good artists and it was an honor to work with them,” Felsen instructed The Instances when the exhibition opened. “However then afterward you begin realizing, ‘Wow that is artwork historical past that’s throughout us.’ It warms your coronary heart.”

Felsen got here into the Gemini workplace almost day-after-day, and actively ran the enterprise, up till a month earlier than his loss of life.

Felsen’s ardour for printmaking lives on at Gemini, which at present is run by the second era in each founding households, Ellen and Ayn Grinstein, Weyl and Suzanne Felsen.

“Probably the most unimaginable issues I’ve discovered from Gemini is what will be doable by printmaking,” stated artist Julie Mehretu in remarks displayed within the exhibition “First Got here a Friendship: Sidney B. Felsen and the Artists at Gemini G.E.L.,” at present on view on the Getty Analysis Institute. “Deeper than that was a lifestyle that Sidney taught me: love, take pleasure in life, work arduous and dwell that entire life with a type of grace.”

Felsen is survived by his spouse, Weyl; daughter, Suzanne Felsen; grandson, Hugo Budd; son-in-law, Kevin Swanson; ex-wife, Rosamund; and his stepchildren with Rosamund, Anthony and James Hinderer.


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