Event (Nov 20): Biala + Edith: an evening of the art and letters at the Art Students League


Biala (1903-2000) in her courtyard, Paris, c. 1965. Photo: Henri Cartier-Bresson © Henri Carier-Bresson/Magnum Photos. Edith Schloss (1919-2011) at the Caffè Novecento, Rome, 2008. Photo: Sylvia Stucky

Biala + Edith: an evening of their art and letters

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


Art Students League
215 W 57th Street


Biala + Edith were internationally recognized for their art and historically respected for their often vocal opinions of the art world and the players who swayed influence. Both lived strikingly independent lives and this independence was reflected in their art, which in both cases assimilated Abstract Expressionism—the movement in which both artists were deeply enmeshed. Both artists attended the Art Students League: Biala in 1923 and Edith in 1942

This special evening will feature readings of letters from the archive of each artist selected by Jason Andrew, Director of the Estates of Biala and Edith Schloss, an a illustrated purview of their work. The charismatic character of both artists will be brought to life through the reading of the letters choreographer Julia K. Gleich.

Biala (1903-2000) was recognized in France and the United States for her paintings of intimate interiors, portraits, and the many places she traveled. A Polish émigré, Biala was born Schenehaia Tworkovska in a small village of Biala in 1903. She immigrated to New York with her older brother and both would soon become active in the early avant grade artist communities of Greenwich Village and Provincetown—Biala taking the name of her native town and Jack becoming a founding member of The Club. On a fateful trip to Paris in 1930, she met the English Novelist Ford Madox Ford. He would introduce her to everyone he knew including Gertude Stein, Picasso, and Matisse among others. She remained at his side until his death in 1939. Upon her return to New York, she quickly became a leading artist in Postwar America befriending Willem de Kooning. She would continue to divide her time, living and exhibiting between New York and Paris until her death in 2000.

Edith Schloss (1919-2011) was one of America’s great expatriate artists intrinsically linked to the milieu of postwar American art whose paintings, assemblages, collages, watercolors and drawings border on the bittersweet, fragile, intimate and naive. Born in Offenbach, Germany, Edith arrived in New York in 1942. She met the socialist Heinz Langerhans who introduced her to Fairfield Porter and Bertolt Brecht and through Porter she met Willem de Kooning, Edwin Denby, and Rudy Burckhardt (who she would marry in 1946). From the onset of the 1950s Schloss exhibited regularly in galleries lining 10th Street and summered in Maine where she befriended Alex Katz and Lois Dodd among others. Separating from Rudy, she left for Rome in 1962 with her young son with plans to stay for only three months; she stayed for a lifetime. Painter Cy Twombly and experimental musician Alvin Curran became her closest friends. An avid writer, she was a critic for The International Herald Tribune and feature art critic for Wanted in Rome. She passed away in 2011 on the eve of the opening of her exhibition, The Painted Song: new works by Edith Schloss and musical score by Alvin Curran.

Exhibition News: Pavel Zoubok Gallery presents collages by Biala

Biala, Table Chargee (fond fonce a droite), 1963, collage, pencil, oil on canvas, 51 1/2 x 45 inches

Pavel Zoubok Gallery is delighted to be exhibiting once again at The Art Show (ADAA) in the Park Avenue Armory. To mark the 30th Anniversary of this prestigious fair, we will be featuring important works by the Polish-born American painter and collagist, JANICE BIALA (1903-2000).

Please visit Booth D10 from Wednesday, February 28 – Sunday, March 4, 2018.

This solo booth will feature a select group of key works from the 1950s and 1960s, making a compelling case for Biala’s inclusion in the pantheon of postwar abstractionists working in collage. Critic Mario Naves writes:

The tension between pure abstraction and the everyday accrues most bluntly in Biala’s collages. Forget Kurt Schwitter’s loving accumulations of detritus or Max Ernst’s adroitly choreographed absurdities—a Biala collage…storms with impatience; scraps of paper, roughly geometric in form, align along a barely discernible grid…The collages aren’t strictly representational, but the specificity of motif is felt as underlying structure—Biala captures its heft and integrity, albeit in abbreviated or obscured manner.

Janice Biala’s work has been exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally during her lifetime with seven solo shows at the storied Stable Gallery and in five Whitney Museum Annuals. Her works are in private and public collections throughout the United States and Europe, including the Whitney Museum of America Art, New York, The Pittsburgh Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., The National Museum, Oslo, Norway, Musée Cantonal de Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland and Musée National d’Arts Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.

To preview works and for additional information please contact Kris Nuzzi at kris@pavelzoubok.com.

Exhibition News: Biala at Tibor de Nagy Gallery

Biala, “Horse and Carriage,” c. 1983, oil and collage on canvas, 45 x 58 in. (115.2 x 148.4 cm) Harvey and Phyllis Lichtenstein Collection

Tibor de Nagy Gallery presents its fifth exhibition of paintings by Biala (1903-2000), featuring over twenty works from the 1960s through the 1990s including selected works from the Harvey and Phyllis Lichtenstein Collection. Harvey Lichtenstein was an ardent supporter of new talent and the President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music from 1967-1999. The exhibition will run January 6-February 11, 2018.

Biala’s contribution to modernism has been noted by critics who championed her assimilation of the School of Paris and the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. Her eight-decade career began in the early 1920s when she hitch-hiked with her brother Jack Tworkov to study art in Provincetown. A fateful Paris encounter with English novelist Ford Madox Ford led to a ten-year relationship with the writer and a life-long relationship with France. Upon her return to New York in 1939 following Ford’s death, Biala was in the thick of a milieu of the New York School, befriending painter Willem de Kooning, and critic Harold Rosenberg among many others. Biala thrived on her transatlantic life maintaining a studio in America while returning time after time to her beloved Paris.

Biala’s approach was a synthesis which danced on the lines between representation and abstraction materializing in a uniquely personal style. Intimate interiors, subtle still-lifes, portraits, and long views of the many landscapes of her various travels acted as her creative point of departure. These initial subjects characterized components of Modernist French styles such as Intimism and were translated through the gestural strokes of Abstract Expressionism which epitomized her mature aesthetic.

In addition to celebrating her undefinable painterly uniqueness, this exhibition highlights the extraordinary relationship Biala had with the director of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Lichtenstein and his wife Phyllis.  Biala and Harvey were related through marriage (Biala’s sister-in-law was Harvey’s first cousin). The Lichtenstein Collection includes emblematic examples from important themes of Biala’s career, as well as a cohesive representation of the significant places the artist featured in her paintings: France, Italy, and especially Spain.

Harvey Litchenstein (seated far right) with the first artists of the New Wave Festival, BAM, 1997 (Front row from left: Jene Highstein, Kristin Jones, Merce Cunningham, Mark Morris. Back row includes Andrew Ginzel, JoAnne Akalaitis (third from left), Bill T. Jones, Lou Reed, Ping Chong and Pina Bausch (third from right) among others. Photo: Joanne Savio for  The New York Times

Harvey Litchenstein (seated far right) with the first artists of the New Wave Festival, BAM, 1997 (Front row from left: Jene Highstein, Kristin Jones, Merce Cunningham, Mark Morris. Back row includes Andrew Ginzel, JoAnne Akalaitis (third from left), Bill T. Jones, Lou Reed, Ping Chong and Pina Bausch (third from right) among others. Photo: Joanne Savio for The New York Times

About Harvey and Phyllis Lichtenstein
As one of the foremost theatrical producers of his time, Harvey Lichtenstein’s first Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) season included Alban Berg’s atonal opera Lulu; performances by a number of modern-dance troupes — Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham and Alwin Nikolais, among others; and the Living Theater’s evening of political protest, Paradise Now. He went on to start the Next Wave Festival where he presented important artists such as Robert Wilson and Pina Bausch. This exhibition aims to not only highlight the collection, but celebrate the Lichtensteins’ eye for talent and close relationships with visual artists.

Harvey and Phyllis not only loved the theater, but also the visual arts and amassed a small but important collection that solely included Daniel Brustlein (1904-1996), Jack Tworkov (1900-1982), and Biala (1903-2000). One historic note, for her 80th birthday Biala had one wish and it was to spend it in Seville, her favorite city in Spain. Family and friends gathered to join her there including Harvey and Phyllis. The group took a horse and carriage ride around the plaza at La Giralda. So memorable was the experience for Biala, she preserved it in the painting Horse and Carriage which would become part of the Harvey and Phyllis Lichtenstein Collection and is featured in this exhibition.

Lecture: Biala: The Woman Painter Among Men

^ Photo: Rudy Burckhardt, 1956

Biala: The Woman Painter Among Men
a special evening with curator Jason Andrew

Thurs, Jan 11, 6:30pm

RSVP (seating is limited)

Art Students League
215 West 57th Street

Painter Janice Biala (1903-2000), known to history primarily by her surname, was an integral figure in the art scene of mid-twentieth century Manhattan. Sister of painter Jack Tworkov, friend of Willem de Kooning and critic Harold Rosenberg, Biala was in the thick of a milieu that gave rise to the New York School. But before all that, she was the lover of the English novelist Ford Madox Ford.

Curator Jason Andrew will trace the remarkable life and art of Biala from her early days of hitch-hiking to Provincetown in the ‘20s, to jumping on a boat to Paris and later her dramatic escape from Nazi occupied France in the ‘30s, to her early support of Willem de Kooning and participation in the New York School in the ’40s. Above all, she left a history of painting noted for its sublime assimilation of the School of Paris and the New York School of abstract expressionism.

This lecture coincides with the exhibition Biala and the Harvey and Phyllis Lichtenstein Collection, on view through February 10 at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 15 Rivington Street, New York

Interview: Curator Diane Kelder on Biala retrospective

Curator Diane Kelder with biala's  Black Interior (Cold Water Flat) , 1955, Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Gift of an anonymous donor [55.44]

Curator Diane Kelder with biala's Black Interior (Cold Water Flat), 1955, Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Gift of an anonymous donor [55.44]

With only a few weeks left to catch Biala: Vision and Memory, the historic retrospective of Janice Biala’s work at Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College, curator Diane Kelder opens up about her very personal connection with the work of Janice Biala and the struggles that come along with mounting the first museum retrospective of Biala’s work.

Kelder is Professor Emerita of Art History at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She taught at Queens College from 1960 to 66; Finch College from 1967 to 1971; College of Staten Island from 1971 to 2000 and the Graduate Center from 1980 to 2000. She was Curator of the Art Gallery of The Graduate Center from 2000 to 2008 where she mounted many notable exhibitions. Her research interests include Baroque Stage Design, the art of the French Revolution, 19th and 3arly 20th Century French painting and Early American Modernism.

Kelder was the Editor of the Journal of Art from 1973 to 1979 and Acting Editor of Arts Magazine in 1988. A a well published author her publications include:

  • The French Impressionists and Their Century. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1967
  • Stuart Davis: A Documentary Monograph in Modern Art. New York: Praeger Publishers, 19712
  • Aspects of “Official” Painting and Philosophic Art (1789-1799). New York: Garland Publishing, 1976
  • The Great Book of French Impressionism. New York: Abbeville Press, 1980 (French and German editions, revised edition 1997)
  • The Great Book of Post-Impressionism. New York: Abbeville Press, 1986 (French and German editions)
  • Lowery Sims et al. Stuart Davis, American Painter. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990
  • Stuart Davis: Art and Art Theory, 1920-1931. New York: The Pierpont Morgan Library, 2002
  • Jim Dine. Selected Prints, 1996-2006. Göttingen: Steidl, 2007

The Biala exhibition at the Queens Museum is somewhat of a homecoming for Kelder as she explains, “I graduated from Queens College with a B.A. in History, but was very interested in Art History. Happily, on graduation in 1955, I received a fellowship from the University of Chicago where I mainly did Art History and got an M.A. Subsequently, I received a fellowship in Art History at Bryn Mawr and received my Ph.D in 1966.”

How did you become interested in curating?

DK:  I have always been attracted to curating, and as an Instructor in Art History at Queens, in the early 60s, I organized exhibitions such as Scenes and Spectacles, which was devoted to Baroque stage design. To my great good fortune, it was reviewed in the New York Times by Brian O’Doherty. In 1966, I was offered the position of Assistant Curator of Drawings and Prints at the Philadelphia Museum –  and had the opportunity to curate four major exhibitions. However, I missed teaching, the freedom to write and being  in  New York so I gave it up and returned to teaching at CUNY.

Nancy Graves  photographed with  Variability and Repetition of Variable Forms,  1971. Courtesy of Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Nancy Graves photographed with Variability and Repetition of Variable Forms, 1971. Courtesy of Mitchell-Innes & Nash

In the eight years I was Curator at the Graduate Center we did 24 exhibitions, plus 7 collaborations with the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study  Exhibition Program. In retrospect, I’m proud of quite a few, but for different reasons would cite “Elective Affinities: Prints by Goya and Manet” (Spring 2001) featuring works from the Arthur RJoss Foundation and the NYPL; “Nancy Graves: Breaking Boundaries, Sculptures, Paintings and Drawings on Loan from the Nancy Graves Foundation” (Spring 2002). Nancy was an amazing artist and one of my dearest friends who left us too soon; “Splendors of the Renaissance, Princely Attire in Italy” (Spring 2004). This exhibition of  fifteen splendid examples of 16th century courtly dress was one of the most theatrical and ambitious shows we did. It featured mannequins sporting clothes that appear in portraits by Bronzino, Giulio Romano, Titian and others and for seven glorious weeks the gallery’s Fifth Avenue windows returned to the Altman Building’s original mission of showing beautiful things; Unquestionably “Technical Detours, The Early Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered” (Spring 2006) was the most challenging show we undertook. Featuring 216 sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and films it involved an enormous number of loans from private and public collections in the U.S. and Europe. I worked with the Guest Curator, Oliver Botar on every aspect of the show and our installation was sensational. Moreover, we produced a 208 page, fully illustrated catalogue that subsequently became a collectors item. I still receive inquiries from people who are looking for a copy.

Another great experience was “Jim Dine Selected Prints, 1996-2006.” Jim is unquestionably one of the most gifted and innovative printmakers of the late 20th and earl21st century. I’ve always loved his imagery and he generously designed the 148 page catalogue which was published by Gerhard Steidl.

One of the great things about running the gallery at the Graduate Center was the interaction with students in our program who served in many capacities – as Research Assistants, helping with the installations, giving weekly gallery talks. I started teaching when I was twenty-four, and I enjoyed it immensely.  Working with our very bright young scholars has given me a perspective I might not otherwise have had.

For sheer pleasure and satisfaction I would say that my most exhilarating curatorial experience was “Stuart Davis: Art and Theory, 1920-31” at The Pierpont Morgan Library (Fall 2002). It was a jewel-box of a show, only about 20 paintings, drawings, prints and notebooks, but we produced a gorgeous catalogue and it got an extraordinary reviews in The New York Times, The New Criterion, and even the London Times Literary Supplement.

It seems like your career and the work of Janice Biala have been intertwined for some time, Can you describe the first time you came in contact with the work of Janice Biala?

DK:  I met Biala and Brustlein in l980 while I was a tenant of their friend, the painter Giorgio Cavallon. I’d seen Biala’s paintings in exhibitions at Tom Gruenebaum’s gallery and when she had the first of her many exhibitions at Kouros in 1990, I was asked to write the catalogue essay.

Biala “The Flower Pots,” 1985, Oil on canvas, 51 x 38 in., Private Collection, NY

DK:  There were a number of challenges in undertaking a retrospective. Biala died in 2000, her work was no longer with the Kouros Gallery and they were not particularly helpful in providing information about the whereabouts of works. A trip to Paris was imperative, since I needed to connect with her professional milieu and personal contacts, visit her home. The people I contacted couldn’t have been nicer including the doctor, who knew her from childhood, and purchased her home, the painter Shirley Jaffe, friend and collector Nicole Kugel, etc. It was a great experience.

The challenges came when I realized that I would have to raise a great deal of money if the exhibition were to include substantial numbers of works from Europe and collections outside of  New York. My hope that the Jewish Museum might be responsive was extinguished after three months of waiting for the “curators” to come to a decision.  The fact that my proposal to a variety of museums and university galleries came at a time of considerable financial stress didn’t help. However, the enthusiasm of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum with its two, unexpected Biala bullfight paintings, and Joseph Brewer’s friendship with Biala and Ford, was a godsend.

While we managed to represent works of Biala’s from the 20s through the 90s, the sheer difference in scale presented a challenge.

Is there any one period or aspect of Biala’s work that interests you most?

Biala was a painter of impeccable taste and remarkable intelligence, She had an intuitive feeling for composition and her orchestration of color was, at times, breathtaking. I respond particularly to the interiors, the Venice paintings, and her marvelous blacks.

What do you see coming in the future? And maybe you can offer a glimpse of a dream curation?

I haven’t any particular plans, but I wouldn’t mind doing an exhibition of some of the magnificent Baroque Theater drawings in the Morgan collection. Maybe cook up something that joins manuscripts, scores in their Music collection with the fabulous sheets given to the Morgan by Donald Oenslager, Janos Scholz and others.

From the Archive: Obit: Biala, 97, Whose Paintings Were Cryptic and Luscious

Biala, 1956. Photo: Rudy Burckhardt, © Rudy Burckhardt

Biala, 1956. Photo: Rudy Burckhardt, © Rudy Burckhardt

The New York Times

By Roberta Smith

published on: October 12, 2000

Janice Brustlein, whose painting career, pursued under the name Biala, spanned two art capitals and several generations, died on Sept. 24 at her home in Paris. She was 97 and had lived in Paris since 1958.

She was known for cryptic, lusciously painted interiors, still lifes, landscapes and street scenes that hovered between abstraction and representation. They belonged to a trans-Atlantic tradition that included French painters like Matisse, Bonnard and Marquet, as well as Milton Avery and Edward Hopper. She might also be grouped with artists like Loren MacIver, Fairfield Porter and Anne Poor, who borrowed from the abstract tendencies of the New York School while concentrating on their immediate surroundings.

Always carrying a sketchbook, Biala drew her subjects from her homes and studios, the cities she lived in and the places she visited, including Cape Cod, Venice, the French Riviera and Fire Island. Although she preferred to live in Paris, her career was based in New York, where she had regular gallery shows beginning in the 1940’s.

Biala was described by her niece, the New York painter Hermine Ford, as a ”uniquely wonderful, widely beloved character” whose house in Paris ”would fill in the late afternoon with all kinds of people — writers, artists, next-door neighbors.” Her close friends included the photographer Cartier-Bresson, as well as the expatriate American painter Shirley Jaffe. She knew literary Paris as well, having lived there with the English novelist Ford Madox Ford from the late 1920’s until his death in 1939, during which time she illustrated some of his novels.

Biala rarely revisited her complicated past — refusing several offers from potential biographers — and as a result its facts are not always clear. Neither Ms. Ford, or her sister Helen Tworkov, a founding editor of Tricycle magazine, remember the name their aunt was given at birth. She was born in 1903, the daughter of a Jewish tailor named Tworkovsky in Biala, a village on the Russian-Polish border. Her father soon left for New York, where he set up a shop on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side; Biala, her mother and her older brother Jacob, who would become the Abstract Expressionist painter Jack Tworkov, followed in 1913.

While both nieces contend that Biala knew she wanted to be a painter from a very early age (before her brother did, in fact), all they know of her artistic education is that at the age of 18 or 19, after a brief period of study at the National Academy of Design, she went to Provincetown, Mass., to study with the painter Edwin Dickinson, whose painterly representation was especially influential on her work. By then she was already living on her own, supporting herself with menial jobs and becoming familiar with Greenwich Village bohemia. Sometime in the mid-1920’s she was briefly married to the painter Lee Gatch. After that, a wealthy couple interested in art paid her expenses on a trip to Paris, where she met Ford and became a Francophile.

In 1943, having returned to New York, Biala married Daniel Brustlein, an Alsatian-born painter who contributed cartoons to The New Yorker under the name Alain. Over the next 15 years the couple split their time between Paris and New York. (The McCarran Act did not permit naturalized citizens to live abroad for more than two years at a time.) Their New York circle included Jack and Wally Tworkov, Harold and May Rosenberg, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Saul Steinberg and Hedda Sterne and Rudy Burckhardt. Mr. Brustlein died in 1996.

Biala’s first exhibition was at the Passedoit Gallery in Manhattan in 1936, by which point, it is thought, she had already taken the name of her birthplace. She exhibited at the Stable Gallery, an important artists’ cooperative, in 1954, 1956 and 1961. In the 1970’s and 80’s she was represented by the Gruenebaum Gallery in New York and in the 1990’s by the Kouros Gallery, where she had her most recent show in 1999.

Despite her love of Paris, Biala never gave up her United States citizenship. She was at home everywhere. ”I never have the feeling of nationality or roots,” she once said. ”I always had the feeling that I belong where my easel is.”