ClampArt is pleased to present “Photographs from the Collection of Steven Gelston,” an exhibition of exclusively black-and-white prints of nearly all male figurative imagery collected over the past thirty-five years.
Steven Gelston grew up surrounded by art. His parents were intelligent and curious collectors of art who purchased works by largely living artists of their own generation still within attainable means. The collection came to include pieces by artists such as Josef Albers, Red Grooms, Philip Guston, Barnett Newman, Claes Oldenburg, and Larry Rivers, among many others. Gelston’s parents possessed strong aesthetic tastes and enjoyed researching the artists who caught their attention. Gelston’s mother led art tours for other women in the community through the museums and galleries of Manhattan. She also organized the annual art show in her town, which included works by often very well-established figures. Eventually she pursued her master’s degree in art education at New York University and went on to teach elementary school art classes. After retiring, she worked as a docent at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Gelston’s family’s appreciation for art and artists rubbed off, and his first purchase of art for himself was an impressive, signed, limited-edition Claes Oldenberg print which he acquired while still an undergraduate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The sophisticated and playful conceptual print graced the walls of his dormitory room.
Eventually Gelston began collecting WWI and WWII posters (combing his love for history), but his first acquisition of a photograph would not be until 1985 during a trip to Key West, Florida. There he acquired two prints by an artist named Chuck Pearson, and it was then that his passion was unleashed. Slowly and thoughtfully, Gelston began researching and buying photographs of primarily male subjects by living artists of the day. Not at all a trophy hunter going after the biggest and most recognizable names, Gelston instead followed his eye and purchased works to which he responded personally.
After years of assembling his collection of photographs, a friend pointed out the fact that the faces of all of the models were cropped out, turned away, or otherwise obscured. After that time with this in mind, Gelston knowingly acquired a photograph titled “Ivan Ivankov, Gymnast, Belarus” by the then up-and-coming artistic duo Anderson & Low, which pictures a shirtless athlete looking up at the lens of the artists’ camera with his arm reaching across just the lower half of his face.
Amusingly, Steven Gelston likely will cringe at all of the attention paid to him, but ClampArt’s exhibition is meant to honor his true appreciation of art and his ongoing support of young, developing artists who rely on such generous patronage.
Gelston is passing on the baton of custodianship for these wonderful works of art, and it is now an opportunity for others to live with and care for the photographs he lovingly singled out for his own enjoyment over the course of many years.
The exhibition includes prints by now well-known photographers such as Anderson & Low, Bill Costa, Wouter Deruytter, Jim French, David Halliday, Annie Leibovitz, Harriet Leibowitz, Blake Little, Dianora Niccolini, Len Prince, Karin Rosenthal, and Joe Ziolkowski, in addition to younger practitioners including John Kenny and Sebastian Perinotti.