The self-described outlaw artist, poet and former member of Magic Tortoise Commune in La Lama, Bill Gersh would have been 75 on July 15.
His daughter Georgia is the owner of the Magpie Gallery 1405 Paseo del Pueblo Norte in the Overland Compound in El Prado. She is hosting a solo show of her father's work that opens with a reception Saturday (July 7) from 5-7 p.m. The work is from the collection of Larry and Lisa Singer, who were neighbors and friends of Gersh.
Georgia Gersh landed the rare collection because of her friendship established years ago with the collector. "I have known Larry and Lisa Singer since I was young," she said. "They were friends and avid collectors of my dad's work with 30 pieces in their collection."
She said, "This show will focus on large, iconic acrylic on canvas paintings from the estate and the five pieces from the Singer collection which are mixed media. We will have a selection of smaller, unframed works on paper available. I haven't made the final selection yet, but am planning on a few each of monotypes, drawings and paint on paper. So, a little of everything and a wide size and price range. This show will feature the best and most iconic work we have available."
The exhibit features some of his work done in the 1980s, a time Georgia said that draws parallels to current events. "The work is from the height of his painting career the mid-late 1980s when the Iran-Contra scandal was going on, similar to what we are going through as a country right now." She said her father "made art in a world with wide borders, and this show will make available everything from delicate watercolors to large, powerful canvases."
During the early '80s, Bill Gersh lived and worked in New York City. Many of these works went from Gersh's studio in New York to the Singers' walls. Georgia said "with 30 pieces in their collection, they are now ready to part with the five pieces to be included in July. It is a rare opportunity to purchase Gersh's early work."
Former Questa resident and collector Singer said, "Bill landed in an industrial loft in the midst of the lower West Side meatpacking district. It was a rough and tumble neighborhood, but Bill held out for survival. Most of my Gersh collection is from this New York period of 1983-84. A favorite spot for me was the Reggae Lounge. I'd visit Bill after a day at the office, check out the pieces he was working on, and we'd head over and dance to whatever the reggae DJ was spinning." Georgia said several pieces in the Singer collection were influenced by this comical duo of white Jewish boys dancing in New York.
Included from the collection is the original "Chant," mixed media on paper, which was used for the iconic 1982 Taos Poetry Circus poster, an electrifying portrait of Gersh's good friend, concert pianist Michel Petrucciani, and perhaps the most precious gem, a colored pencil drawing of boxers from 1976.
"I'm excited about this show," Georgia Gersh said. "I unwrapped one painting two days ago and gasped. It is such beautiful, strong, meaningful, poignant work. And, although much of it is at least 30 years old, it is as fresh and relevant today as it was when he completed it."
The Magpie Gallery is a Taos artists' haven with something for everyone.
The name of the gallery is inspired by the bird, Georgia Gersh explained. "Magpies are smart and beautiful and like shiny things. I missed them when I was living on the East Coast."
She said her mission is to keep prices down and get the work into people's homes. "I want to get art on people's walls … I opened Magpie a little over four years ago to represent some of the most talented Taos artists: some of whom are established, others that have never shown before and everything in between."
She describes the location as a "casual, comfortable environment, and many people comment on how inspiring a space it is. Visitors come and sit with coffee to browse the art book collection or take photos in a tiara on the Barbie Princess Settee. It is a special spot."
The journey towards establishing her gallery "happened very organically," she added. "If you haven't been to an opening at Magpie, you are in for a treat. Many of my artists are in attendance to talk about their work and make connections with neighbors, friends and visitors. Most of Taos' most treasured artists are in attendance. My dad was part of a talented group, now in their seventies, many still living and working in Taos and experiencing great success. I have created a beautiful space for the community to gather and connect around art. It's always a great party!"
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