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 Allen Leepa  (1919 - 2009)

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Lived/Active: Michigan/New York/Florida      Known for: painting, art education

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Ad Code: 4
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from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Artist’s Statement from the catalogue, Allen Leepa: A Retrospective, 1997

Allen Leepa was born in Brooklyn, New York, the first born child of artist Esther Gentle.  He was raised in California before returning to New York at age 14 to finish high school.  His interest in visual arts stemmed from a young age and his earliest training was in WPA classes at the The Art Students League in New York City.  In 1937, Allen Leepa received a tuition scholarship to be part of the inaugural class at the New Bauhaus school of design established by László Moholy-Nagy in Chicago, Illinois.  This experience introduced Leepa to European modernism and to the importance of art education.

Following studies at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, Leepa attended Columbia University in New York City where he received his BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in 1942, MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in 1947 and EdD (Doctorate of Education) in 1961.  In 1945, Allen Leepa became a Professor of Art at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan. He served in this capacity for 38 years, retiring in 1983 as Professor Emeritus.

In addition to his work as an educator, Dr. Leepa received a Fulbright Award (1950), a Childe Hassam Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1969) and a Ford Foundation Grant (1970).  A pioneering American artist, Leepa was recognized as a regional Abstract Expressionist whose style expanded from color field into minimalist art.  He had a number of one-man and group exhibitions in New York, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Florida, France and Brazil.  He was invited to show at the important Young American Artists exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1953 and was given a one-man show at the Musee de l’Art Moderne in Paris, France in 1966.

As a writer, Dr. Leepa wrote numerous articles on art criticism and published two books, The Challenge of Modern Art, an art appreciation text book currently in its fifth printing, and a revealing biography entitled Rattner on the life and art of Abraham Rattner, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers in 1979.

Dr. Leepa retired to Tarpon Springs, FL in 1983.  After the death of his mother in 1991, Leepa and his wife, Isabelle Sutton Leepa, became stewards of the artworks and estate of Esther Gentle’s husband, the expressionist painter Abraham Rattner.  In 1996 the Leepas gave St. Petersburg Junior College about $17.5 million in art and property for the establishment of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, which opened in January of 2002

About the Museum
The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art opened January 22, 2002 on the Tarpon Springs Campus of St. Petersburg College. The Museum's 20th century collection is made up of art from Abraham Rattner's estate donated by Allen and Isabelle Leepa and a large donation made by the Tampa Museum of Art in 1997.  The Museum is filled with Rattner's retrospective works: lithographs, tapestries, sculptures, paintings and stained glass.  It is sure to be the largest assemblage of Rattner's work in the world as efforts continue to be made to reclaim Rattner works from other venues.

The 6,000-piece collection also contains works by Esther Gentle, Rattner's second wife, who was a printmaker, sculptor and painter and Allen Leepa, himself, an artist, educator and author.  Works by Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Marc Chagall, Auguste Herbin, Georges Rouault, Hans Hofmann and Max Ernst are part of the collection.  Rattner considered many of them, from the Paris days of the 1920s and 1930s, to be his friends as well as contemporaries.  A group of first-run posters from 20th century Paris exhibitions and Rattner's archival materials -- personal items including poetry, diaries and letters -- are also part of the collection. Of particular interest is Rattner's correspondence with noted author Henry Miller.

The Museum was designed by the award-winning architect E.C. Hoffman Jr. and built by Creative Contractors, Inc.  The hi-tech interior work was crafted by Creative Machines, Inc. The 53,000 square-foot building simulates the bow of a ship -- a post modernist nod towards Tarpon Springs' fishing and sponging communities.  The Museum complex is actually comprised of three buildings in one -- the Museum, the Ellis Foundation Art Education Center and the Michael M. Bennett Library -- designed in such a way that the buildings appear as if they were thrust together.  Hoffman Architects, PA was awarded the 2002 H. Dean Rowe Award of Design Excellence by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for the design of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art.

Link to Museum website:

Information provided by Rebecca Larson, Associate Curator and Registrar, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art

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