Exhibition News: First Posthumous Museum Retrospective Announced

Biala,  Blue Interior with Man and Dog , 1979, Oil on canvas, 64 x 51 in. (162.6 x 129.5 cm)

Biala, Blue Interior with Man and Dog, 1979, Oil on canvas, 64 x 51 in. (162.6 x 129.5 cm)

Flushing, NY – The Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, is pleased to present Biala: Vision and Memory, September 12-October 27, 2013. The exhibition is the first posthumous museum retrospective of American painter Janice Biala (1903-2000) ever held in New York. This historic and comprehensive exhibition brings together paintings, collages, and drawings from across seven decades the artist’s career from the late 1920s to the 1990s. It includes important loans from public and private collections, including two paintings from the Godwin-Ternbach Museum’s permanent collection as well as significant loans from the Estate of Biala. Additionally, the exhibition will display books by celebrated author Ford Madox Ford for which Biala provided illustrations, as well as personal photographs, exhibition catalogues and announcements that document her social and artistic circles in New York and Paris. The exhibition will also feature a documentary about Biala, filmed in  the artist’s studio in 1994. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with an essay by its guest curator Diane Kelder, Professor Emerita of Art History at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

An opening reception on Thursday, September 12 from 5-7 pm, will feature an informal exhibition walk-through by Diane Kelder, beginning at 6 pm.

Born Schenehaia Tworkovsky in a town near the Polish Russian border (c. 1903-2000), Biala pursued a career that spanned more than seven decades and brought her critical recognition in New York and Paris. In both cities she formed close friendships with legendary figures of modernist art and literature. She witnessed the eclipse of Paris as the international center of modernism, the rise of Abstract Expressionism, and the dizzying succession of movements that radically transformed the very concept of art during the second half of the 20th century. Through it all, she continued to paint exquisitely crafted canvases in a personal style that, even now, resists classification.

On a visit to Paris in 1930, Biala met and fell in love with the British novelist Ford Madox Ford. She created illustrations and dust covers for several of his books and managed his dealings with publishers until his death in 1939 when she became the Executor of his literary estate. Returning to New York the following year, she reconnected with her brother Jack Tworkov, who introduced her to Willem de Kooning and other artists who would subsequently transform American painting.  Throughout the 50s and 60s, while spending extended periods in Paris, Biala was one of a select group of women who participated in the activities of Studio 35 and The Club and exhibited at the Stable Gallery, a cooperative that showed many artists of the New York School and enjoyed the support of critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg. She briefly explored gestural abstraction during this period, but her abiding fascination with the world around her proved more compelling. After taking up permanent residence in Paris, she continued to exhibit regularly in New York until her death in 2000. Since 2005, the Tibor de Nagy Gallery has presented three solo exhibitions that have generated renewed critical interest in her work.

In her opening essay for the catalogue Diane Kelder writes: “Overcoming the hardships encountered by legions of Eastern European immigrants and years of precarious existence as an aspiring young artist, the painter known as Biala (1903-2000) pursued a career that spanned more than seven decades and garnered broad critical recognition in New York and Paris. In both cities, she formed lasting friendships with many of the legendary figures of modernist art and literature. Tough-minded and fiercely independent, she created an idiosyncratic body of work that reflected her peripatetic life, resistance to prevailing art trends, and extended dialogue with the School of Paris. After settling in that city permanently in 1965, Biala continued to exhibit in New York. However, her aesthetic concerns and expatriate status gradually isolated her from the increasingly fashion and market-driven priorities of the late twentieth century art world. In 1989, when asked by a critic to contemplate what her career might have been had she remained in New York, she replied “If I had it to do all over again, I’d do exactly the same thing.”[1]

Continuing, Kelder explains, “In canvas after canvas, she displays remarkable visual intelligence and absolute control of her medium. If Biala’s paintings offer immense gratification to the eye, they also are reservoirs of feeling and memory, lyric affirmations of the life she chose to lead.”

A series of lectures will follow during September and October—dates will be confirmed. Dr. Kelder will discuss Biala’s themes and variations, poet and art critic Mary Maxwell will speak about Biala and the Provincetown Art colony; Biala Estate curator Jason Andrew will discuss Biala and Ford Madox Ford; and GTM Director Amy Winter will comment on women artists in the New York School in the post-WWII period. The museum will also screen the BBC film series “Parade’s End,” based on Ford Madox Ford’s 1924-28 novel about WWI, hailed as “possibly the greatest 20th-century novel in English.”

For further information about the exhibition and program times and dates, as well as upcoming exhibits and events, call 718-997-4747 or visit Godwin-Ternbach MuseumGodwin. All exhibitions and public programs are free.

By car, the Godwin-Ternbach Museum is 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan. Directions are: atwww.qc.cuny.edu/directions

About the Godwin-Ternbach Museum:
The Godwin-Ternbach Museum, a part of Queens College’s Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, presents exhibitions and programs that provide significant educational opportunities and aesthetic experiences to residents of the borough and neighboring Long Island and Manhattan. As the only comprehensive collection in Queens, housing over 5,000 objects dating from ancient to modern times, the museum introduces many individuals to art and artifacts they might not otherwise encounter. The breadth of these holdings, and the rich resources of the college, allow presentations that speak to the interests and needs of the diverse audiences of the communities the GTM serves. Lectures, symposia, gallery talks, films and workshops, and an active website, complement and interpret the art on view. All exhibitions and programs are free and open to the public.

For more about Queens College visit: www.qc.cuny.edu

[1] Michael Brenson, “Three Who Were Warmed By the City of Light,” The New York Times (June 25, 1989): 32.