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 Sonia Gechtoff  (1926 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: abstract landscape-figure, non ob

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Ad Code: 3
Sonia Gechtoff
from Auction House Records.
Landscape #1
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Painter Sonia Gechtoff has "wrestled to the ground two polarities . . . abstaction and representation" (Heller 208). She was born and raised in Philadelphia and studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, receiving Her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 1950. She first learned about painting from Leonid Gechtoff, her Russian-born father who painted expressionistic landscapes.

In 1951, Sonia Gechtoff moved to San Francisco, where she took a class in lithography from James Budd at the California School of Fine Arts. There she was exposed to Clyfford Still, Frank Lobdell and Ernest Briggs and their movement of Bay Area Expressionism. From 1952-1965 her abstract paintings with impasto and palette-knife applied paint reflected that influence and brought her success. It was written that her "expressionistic figure paintings soon evolved into tempestuous abstract expressionist works which brought her national acclaim as one of the most promising artists of her generation.: (Heller 205). The De Young Museum held a one-person show for her in 1957.

Gechtoff also associated with a free-spirited group of young artists and married one of them, action painter James Kelly. In 1958, the couple moved to New York City and remained there. Her East-Coast exhibition venues included the Whitney Annual and the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. However, with the advent of Pop Art and Minimalism, which overrode the popularity of Abstract Expressionism, her reputation fell into relative obscurity for a decade. Then in the 1970s, she again began to exhibit. Her new work, which evolved during a year of teaching at the University of New Mexico, was geometric pencil drawings on rag paper saturated with hues of acrylic paint.

In the 1980s, she expanded that technique with increasingly larger and less-controlled acrylic paintings that had elements of realism, architectural and landscape images. Of these works, a reviewer wrote: . . ."geometirc and eccentric shapes mingle freely; hard-edge and painterly approaches combine without contradiction; and audacious colors co-exist. The conflicts between abstraction and representation or between freedom and discipline don't even come to mind." (Heller 205)

In addition to the University of New Mexico from 1974 to 1975, Gechtoff has taught at the California School of Fine Arts, 1956-57; New York University, 1960-1970; and Queens College, New York, 1970-74.

She received a Ford Foundation fellowship to Tamarind Lithos, Los Angeles. Her work is in the collections of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, both in New York City.

Solo and Selected Exhibitions include Dublin Gallery, Philadelphia, 1948; Lucien Labaudt Gallery, San Francisco, 1952; Six Gallery, 1955; Action 1, Merry-Go-Round Building, Santa Monica Pier, 1955; Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, 1957, 1959; 1958; Poindexter Gallery, New York, 1959, 1960; Albright College, Pennsylvania, 1966; Westbeth Galleries, New York, 1971, 1972; San Francisco Museum of Art, Painting and Sculpture in California: The Modern Era 1976; Laguna Art Museum & San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism, 1996.

Sources include:
Jules Heller and Nancy G. Heller, North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century. Essay by Ann Lee Morgan
Les Krantz, American Artists, Illustrated Survey of Leading Contemporary Artists
Thomas Albright, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-1980
David J Carlson, Carlson Gallery

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Sonia Gechtoff is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Abstract Expressionism

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