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Artists Among Us: Gerson Leiber

Originally Posted: September 28, 2011

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Gerson Leiber, "Drawings, Drawings, Drawings", Exhibition 2011, The Leiber Museum. (Gary Mamay)

Artist Gerson Leiber. (Adam Reich)

East Hampton - Continuing with our artist profiles of artists both living and working in the Hamptons, our next artist is Gerson Leiber who lives (and works) in East Hampton.

Born in Brooklyn in 1921 and reared in Titusville, Pennsylvania, Leiber began his art studies in 1946 at the Royal Academy of Art in Budapest, Hungary while stationed there at the end of World War II. When he returned to New York City after the war, he studied printmaking with Will Barnet at the Art Students League. At the Brooklyn Museum's art school, Leiber began engraving with Gabor Peterdi and subsequently taught etching and engraving at the Printmaking Workshop established by Robert Blackburn. In addition to being an acclaimed printmaker, he has produced both paintings and sculpture since the mid-1950s.

In 1956, Leiber and his wife, acclaimed accessories designer Judith Leiber, purchased a farmhouse in East Hampton, where the artist continues to live and work. In 2005, the couple built a museum on this property, housing their extensive art collections and chronicling their careers. The Leiber Museum offers an unparalleled retrospective of both artist's creations over the last several decades.

Gerson Leiber, "New Year Roses," 2011. (Gary Mamay)

Leiber has had numerous solo exhibitions spanning more than five decades around the country, and in particular at Guild Hall, the former Arlene Bujese Gallery and Elaine Benson Gallery, as well as the Vered Gallery, the Fine Arts Museum in Hempstead, the Kennedy Galleries, Ro-Ko Gallery, Alex Rosenberg Gallery, East Side Gallery all in New York City, as well as the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Israel, among numerous others.

He has received numerous awards and honors, including, but certainly not limited to, The Benjamin Altman Prize for the Figure, National Academy of Design, The Ralph Fabri Medal of Merit, the Museum of Fine Arts Purchase Award, the Boston Printmakers John Taylor Arms Memorial Prize, National Academy of Design, the President's Award, Audubon Artists Annual Purchase Award, Dulin Gallery of Art, the Audubon Medal of Honor for Graphics, and the New Jersey State Museum Prize, Philadelphia Print Club, Patrick Gavin Memorial Prize, among others.

Leiber's work has been in exhibitions both nationally and internationally and is included in many prestigious public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, and Guild Hall Museum, where a retrospective of his work was exhibited in 2003.

Gerson Leiber, "Sea Wrack," 2010. (Gary Mamay)

Additionally, his works are in the collections at Yale University Art Gallery, Seattle Museum of Art, Library of Congress, New York Public Library, Cooper Union, Cincinatti Museum of Art, New Jersey State Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Norfolk Museum of Arts & Sciences, Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art, Anchorage Historical and Fine Arts Museum, Walker Art Center, and the Malmo Museum (Sweden), and Victoria & Albert Museum (England).

When did you start making art and what medium(s) do you consider to be your roots in art?

Gerson Leiber: It was not until I found myself living in Budapest, Hungary in 1944 as an American soldier that I seriously considered the possibility of making art my future career and livelihood. Then and there I made my first woodcut and drawings which I now realize, after many years, led me to the exhibition of drawings now displayed in our museum in Springs, East Hampton.

What is it about the Hamptons that brought you here and enticed you to stay, work, and pursue your art here as opposed to some place else?

GL: An invitation to a friend's summer home in Springs brought me to visit despite a heavy rain which led me to foreswear a return. I planted myself in East Hampton's sandy soil for the rest of my life as a gardener and maker of marks. The low landscape lines, abundant vegetation, the presence of a flourishing culture of summer theatre, galleries and ubiquitous artists of note (they seemed to be everywhere) plus fashionable figures all in the reach of New York City was irresistible. We bought an old farmhouse, built a small studio to shelter an etching and lithograph press brought down from Woodstock, and a new life began.

Gerson Leiber, "The Leiber Gardens," 2007 and "Maze of Hedges," 1998. (Gary Mamay)

How do you support yourself as an artist?

Gerson Leiber, "Empty Vessels," 2010. (Gary Mamay)

GL: How do I support myself as an artist? The answer is that I do not and never have. Though a growing reputation in my field as a working and exhibiting graphic artist led to a teaching job at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, I was always dependant on my wonderful wife of 65 years of marriage, Judith Leiber, famous for her accessories designs. Our joint venture into business was highly successful and has led to the construction of a fine museum to house our life work. A permanent exhibition of her extraordinary bags and belts is on display, as well as my show of "Drawings Drawings Drawings." Our collection of Chinese ceramics of many centuries is also displayed.

Why live and work in the Hamptons as opposed to elsewhere?

GL: In the Hamptons, a short flight, bus, railroad or car trip brings you to an area of working farms and fisheries both commercial and sport. My all consuming hobby of gardening began almost as a reflex action to clearing the overgrown acre-and-half on which our farmhouse stood, has resulted in what is now a commodious shingled home in the vernacular local salt-box style, surrounded by six or more acres of decorative gardens. Early on, no doubt under the influence of our many European trips, I found a need for sculpture to grace the gardens. Visitors to the museum may wander at will after viewing the exhibitions.

What local environmental or historical aspects of the Hamptons do you relate to that may be reflected in your medium?

GL: The many bays and inlets of the shore line offer distinct motifs to the artist that are both classical and abstract, I have found, as well, the patterns of my gardens stimulating and provocative.

What artists do you feel have influenced you and your work?

GL: Matisse, Picasso, Braque and Bonnard have influenced me as well as local abstract expressionists.

Gerson Leiber, More "Drawings, Drawings, Drawings", Exhibition 2011, The Leiber Museum. (Gary Mamay)

What advice would you give an emerging artist?

GL: Be curious, do not be afraid to experiment. It will avoid lock-step which is momentarily satisfying but ultimately fatal.

What gives you an edge (if any)?

GL: 'The Edge' is an elusive power! It often resides in the mastery of an unusual or difficult technique. Go for it, there is no shame in it.

Gerson Leiber, "Downgraded Hurlicane," 2010. (Gary Mamay)

What are you working on now, and are you involved in any upcoming shows or exhibitions?

GL: My present drawing exhibition at our museum is the culmination of years of intensive drawing and heavily involves "Play." This is not the mindless play of a child, which is so often extolled today by a proud grandparent. It is the studied results of a mature life-long struggle with shapes, forms, and colors informed by living in a century unmatched in human history. Talk about an "edge"!

The Leiber Museum is located at 446 Old Stone Highway, East Hampton, NY 11937, 631-329-3288.

To view more of Gerson Leiber's go to www.leibermuseum.com, or email at info@leibermuseum.com.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

Related Articles:

Guest (judie) from tennessee says::
I have a "Brambles, second stage" by leiber print 3-30 1960 and "Reflections" A.P. Leiber '61 Any information would be appreciated thank you
Mar 6, 2012 3:52 pm

Guest (angel) from south florida says::
trying to get info on a painting by leiber called stock holders meeting from 1959
Sep 12, 2011 11:59 am


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