Sidney Gordin Biography

Untitled Relief 2, c. 1960s

21 x 19 x 3 inches  |  acrylic on wood

On October 24, 1918, Sidney Gordin was born in Chelyabinsk, Russia. He spent his early years in Shanghai, China. At the age of four, he moved with his family to New York. Gordin’s nephew, Eliot Nemzer recalls that when Gordin was a child he attended “a dinner party with his parents. Someone showed him a book of pictures that when thumbed through quickly made the image appear to move. This person then gave him a wad of blank papers and something to write with. Sid created a similar type of moving image with his materials. All the adults at the party became quite excited [and] praised his efforts. Sid told me he thought this was a pivotal experience in guiding him towards his vocation.” During his formative years at Brooklyn Technical High School, he briefly contemplated the idea of becoming an architect; yet, by the time he enrolled at Cooper Union, he was determined to become a professional artist. There, he studied under Morris Kantor (1896-1974) and Leo Katz (1887-1982), devoting much of his class schedule to drawing and painting.

In 1949, Gordin turned his attention to sculpture for the first time. Three years later, he held his first solo-exhibition at Bennington College in Vermont and the Peter Cooper Gallery in New York. That same year he was accepted into the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s group exhibition American Sculpture 1951. His metal and wire constructions were shown alongside such sculptors as Alexander Calder (1898-1976), William Zorach (1887-1966), and George Rickey (1907-2002). Over the following years, he regularly exhibited in the annual exhibitions of the Whitney Museum of American Art, while also holding yearly solo-exhibitions at the Grace Borgenicht Gallery in New York. Three days into his first solo-exhibition at Borgenicht in 1953, the Whitney made their first acquisition of his work by purchasing a metal construction for their permanent collection.

By the late 1950s, he began to employ wood in his sculptures, which eventually led to the creation of painted constructions. With a renewed interest in painting, Gordin often alternated between these painted wood constructions and two-dimensional painting up until his death in the early 90s.

Following teaching stints at both Sarah Lawrence College and the New School for Social Research in New York, Gordin accepted a position at UC Berkeley’s Department of Art in 1958. Amidst the emerging Bay Area art scene, Gordin taught alongside such artists as Peter Voulkos, Joan Brown, and Jay de Feo. Coinciding with his move to Berkeley, he held his first solo-exhibition on the West Coast at San Francisco’s seminal Dilexi Gallery. In 1962, the M.H. De Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco mounted his first one-man museum show.

Yet, while maintaining his professorship at Berkeley, Gordin never completely cut his ties to the East Coast. He maintained a studio in Provincetown, Massachusetts, which he often visited throughout the years, and continued to appear in several exhibitions organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, and the Zabriskie Gallery well into the 90s. Over the next several decades, he was included in prominent group exhibitions such as the Whitney’s Precisionist View in American Art and Geometric Abstraction in America; the exhibition West Coast Now, which traveled from the Portland Art Museum to the Seattle Art Museum, the De Young, and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery; and the Oakland Museum’s exhibition, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area. During the course of his career, he was also included in shows in Paris, Tel Aviv, and Tokyo.

He retired from teaching in 1986 as Professor Emeritus of Art. Following his retirement, he, along with several members of the Berkeley Art Department, founded the Breakfast Club, an eclectic mix of Bay Area artists and students that met weekly for discussions about art and politics and held regular group exhibitions for many years. Three years before his death in 1993, he was inducted as a Member of the National Academy of Design. He passed away in his sleep at the age of 77 on January 28, 1996.

Videos

4:21 | Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer | Released for SIDNEY GORDIN: Constructivism in Flux, 2017

5:42 | Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer | Released for SIDNEY GORDIN: Drawings in Air & On Paper

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AWARDS & AFFILIATIONS

1960  Prize, Providence Art Club, RI

1958  Martin’s Award, The Brooklyn Museum, NY

1957  Recognition of Outstanding Public Service, United States Department of Commerce, Office of International Trade Fairs, Washington, D.C.

1953-54  Creative Playthings, Inc., Manufacturer Third Prize, for “Tunnel Maze,” Museum of Modern Art, NY

Member, National Academy of Design (1993)
Associate Member, National Academy of Design (1992)
Sculptors Guild
Associate Member, Provincetown Art Association (1959)
American Abstract Artists (1959)
Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors (1959)

 

COLLECTIONS

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Baltimore Museum of Art, OH
Boca Raton Museum of Art, FL
Brooklyn Museum, NY
Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA
Milwaukee Art Museum, WI
Newark Museum, NJ
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, UT
Oakland Museum, CA
Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA
St. Louis Museum of Art, MO
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA
Security Pacific National Bank, Los Angeles, CA
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC
Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Rockland, ME

 

CHRONOLOGY

1918  Born in Cheliabinsk, Russia on October 24
1922  Moves with family to New York City
1937  Graduates from Brooklyn Technical School
1941  Graduates from Cooper Union in New York City
1951  Holds first solo-exhibition in New York at the Peter Cooper Gallery
1957-59  Member of the Faculty at the New School for Social Research
1958  Member of the Faculty at Sarah Lawrence College
1958-1986  Teaches at University of California, Berkeley
1959  Holds first solo-exhibition in San Francisco at the Dilexi Gallery
1960  Buys a studio in Provincetown, MA
1962  Retrospective exhibition at the M.H. De Young Museum takes place
1986  Retired as Professor Emeritus of the University of California, Berkeley
1996  Died in his sleep at the age of 77 in Berkeley

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY (SELECTED LIST)

Articles

Baur, John I.H., “Sidney Gordin,” Art in America, Winter 1954, p. 20, 70.
Burnham, Jack, “Mondrian’s American Circle,” Arts Magazine, vol. 48, Sept./Oct. 1973, pp. 36-39.
Duncan, Michael, “‘Still Working’ at Fisher Gallery, USC,” Art in America, July 1996, p. 95-6.
“Exhibitions,” Artweek, April 18, 1981, p. 12.
“Exhibition at Borgenicht Gallery,” ARTnews, vol. 60, Nov. 1961, p. 16.
“Fifty-Six Painters and Sculptors,” Art in America, Aug. 1964, p. 22-79.
Fitzsimmons, James, “Fifty-seventh Street,” Art Digest, vol. 27, June 1953, p. 17.
Larsen., S.C., “Newspace, Los Angeles,” Arts Magazine, vol. 52, Nov. 1997, p. 18.
Liss, Andrea, “Bay Area Abstraction,” Artweek, May 7, 1983, p. 1, 16.
Raoul, R., “Trends in American Sculpture,” Apollo (London, England), part ns 76 (Oct. 1962), p. 640.
Schuyler, James, “Reviews and Practices,” ARTnews, vol. 60, Nov.1961, p. 19.
Stiles, Knute, “Sidney Gordin at Paule Anglim,” Art in America, Dec. 1981, p. 151.
Tillim, S., “Exhibition at Borgenicht Gallery,” Arts Magazine, vol. 36, Dec. 1961, p. 54.
Ventura, Anita, “San Francisco: Seeking and Finding,” Arts Magazine, vol. 39, March 1965, p. 78.
Wallace, Dean, “San Francisco- Buyer’s Market,” Art in America, Aug. 1961, p. 126-130.
Webster, Mary Hull, “H.C. Westerman at the Richmond Art Center and Sidney Gordin at the Berkeley Art Center,” Artweek, Nov. 1997, p. 17-18.
York, Richard, “Great Planes,” ARTnews, Feb. 2003, p. 125.

Exhibition Catalogues

American Sculpture 1951: A National Competitive Exhibition, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dec. 7, 1951- Feb. 24, 1952.
Annual Exhibition 1962: Contemporary Sculpture and Drawings, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, Dec. 12, 1962- February 3, 1963.
Armstrong, Tom, et al., 200 Years of American Sculpture, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1976.
Armstrong, Tom and Susan C. Larsen, Art in Place: Fifteen Years of Acquisitions, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, July 7- October 29, 1989.
Ashton, Dore, Modern American Sculpture, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1967.
Baur, John I.H. ed., The New Decade: 35 American Painters and Sculptors, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1955.
DuPont, Diana, et al., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: The Painting and Sculpture Collection, New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1985.
Geometric Abstraction in America, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, March 20- May 13, 1962.
Orr-Cahall, Christina, The Art of California: Selected Works from the Collection of the Oakland Museum, Oakland: The Oakland Museum Art Department and Chronicle Books, 1984.
Post-Mondrian Abstraction in America, Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, March 31- May 13, 1973.
Recent Sculpture U.S.A., New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1959.
The West Coast Now: Current Work from the Western Seaboard, Portland: Portland Art Museum, February 9- March 6, 1968.

Books

Albright, Thomas, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area: 1945-1980, An Illustrated History, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
Mendelowitz, Daniel M., A History of American Art, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1957.

EXHIBITIONS (SELECTED LIST)

2016  Sidney Gordin: Constructivism in Flux, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

2012  Sidney Gordin: Just Put it Together, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

2009  Sidney Gordin: Drawings in Air and on Paper, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

2008  Sight and Sound: A Visual Metaphor, Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, UT

2008  Sidney Gordin: Russian American Constructivist, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1994  Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

1993-94  National Academy of Design, NY

1988  Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, IL

1981, 1984, 1988, 1990-91, 1994, 2000 Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA

1977, 1979, 1984, 1985, 1987 Newspace Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

1968, 1996  Portland Art Museum, OR

1967, 1971, 1983  Berkeley Art Center, CA

1963, 1970-71, 1984-85 Oakland Museum, CA

1962, 1968  M.H. DeYoung Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA

1962  Newark Museum, NJ

1961  Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT

1961  Scripps College, Claremont, CA

1959-60  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

1959  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA

1959  Denver Art Museum, CO

1959, 1961-63, 1965  Dilexi Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1958-59, 1964-65, 1994  Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA

1958  Brooklyn Museum, NY

1957  Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

1957  Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX

1956  Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VI

1955, 1960, 1963-64, 1966-67, 1969  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA

1955-57, 1960-61  Riverside Art Museum, NY

1955, 1959  Saint Louis Art Museum, MO

1955  Guggenheim Museum, NY

1954  Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

1954, 1962  Art Institute of Chicago, IL

1952-63, 1978, 1980, 1985, 1989, 1991-93, 1995  Whitney Museum of American Art, NY

1952, 1954, 1959-60  Museum of Modern Art, NY

1951-58, 1960-65  Grace Borgenicht Gallery, NY

1951-52  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

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