"Far Horizon 1045" print on canvas
Helen Gerardia (1903-1988)
- Thin Gallery Wrap (0.75”)
- Border Color: Black
- Size: 11 x 14"
Although Helen Gerardia was born in Russia, she came to America under the wing of the Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hoffman; she was training with him at the time and attended his school from 1946-47. In addition, she trained in numerous other schools and workshops, mostly throughout the forties. She was accomplished in more than one media, and often her shows included both painting and lithographs. Another one of Helen Gerardia's accomplishments was owning the Gerardia Workshop, where she taught a wide variety of techniques in different media including etching, lithography, and painting.
Gerardia became most well-known for her works executed between 1952 and 1972. Some of her works were said to be somewhat cubist; however, her style seemed to change, with the addition of color, in 1959. Ascent, which is not dated, does contain bright color, and the assumption can be made that it was done around or after this time.
Ascent is striking in composition, space, shape, and color. It has a composition that is based on a diagonal throughout the entire picture plane. This strong diagonal, including all the objects against a dark background, runs from the bottom right corner to the top left corner of the lithograph. This is often considered to be a strong format for a composition; Gerardia, however, added some drama of her own. The drama is created by the direction in which the diagonal runs: right to left. It creates a conflict for western viewers by contradicting the manner in which they would normally read. However, this contradiction also creates a more forceful upward movement and therefore produces an accurate impression of the title, Ascent.
Gerardia's use of color is also a unique quality of the lithograph in relation to her elaboration of positive and negative space. Her only use of color besides black and white is in the background which is a vibrant deep lavender. The lavender is an element which makes the composition even stronger. Her use of color, as described by a critic in 1959, "...carries her most personal message and softens the public statement..." It compels the viewer to concentrate more on the direction of the objects in the picture, but also allows for the negative space created by these geometric shapes to stand out to the viewer.
The negative space altered by these geometric shapes is just as much an integral part of the composition as the objects themselves. The background color emphasizes the negative space and adds depth, softening the harsh outlines of the geometric shapes. The shapes should not be ignored either: they are strong geometrics, made less rigid by a curvilinear half-ellipse. This softer shape makes the work more approachable and less threatening for the viewer.
Gerardia exhibited at some of the most well-known museums in the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, to good critical reception. As one critic wrote, "Her themes are clearly expressed and show good arrangement...." Yet another wrote of her as being "...an industrious artist, and hardly a day goes by that one of her prints or paintings don't go on view or win a prize in some corner of the country...the results are often visually exciting and pleasing in pattern."
Helen Gerardia was an accomplished artist whose style was consistently strong without becoming trite. She had a sense of what she wanted from her art as well, especially from the arrangements of her compositions. Ascent exemplifies her understanding of all the formal elements which is an integral part of creating a work of art. Perhaps Ascent achieved an ambition which Gerardia spoke about: "To be the best artist I possibly can. To pursue my own vision with confidence."