Gemini G.E.L. is more than just an art gallery—artists from far and wide come to this art world mecca on Los Angeles’ Melrose Avenue to let their creative spirits flow. So what is it about this artistic hotpot that breeds such high-profile artistry?
In 1965 Los Angeles was not the vibrant art community it has become today. Three visionaries—Sidney Felsen, Stanley Grinstein and Ken Tyler—recognized that, in order for a spry young L.A. arts community to grow and service the potential talent gravitating to the city, the City of Angels needed an art workshop based on the European mold. What these three created was a first of its kind: a true Los Angeles artists’ workshop, dubbed Gemini G.E.L. (Graphics Editions Limited).Today,supported by well-trained staff and an array of essential equipment, Gemini remains a studio with the same “anything is possible” atmosphere of freedom and experimentation that fostered its rise to the top of the L.A. arts scene.
In the 40-plus years of Gemini’s existence, a plethora of cutting-edge painters and sculptors have left their own studios to work alongside a team of Gemini’s master printers and technicians. Gemini-fostered artists are known for their rendering of original, limited edtion prints or sculptures that often use unfamiliar media or tools and push their artistic output to unexpected heights.The essence of Gemini is in its ability to establish a near-perfect environment for each artistic process in order to maximize creation and publication of superb contemporary art.
From the onset, Gemini’s founders sought out the most eminent talents of the day. Famed for his Bauhaus-structured art, Josef Albers created Gemini’s historic maiden print. Albers was just the beginning, though—the turning point for the new enterprise came in 1967, when younger, more available artists like Ken Price, Ed Ruscha, Sam Francis, and Bruce Nauman began filling the workshop’s roster. And it was the eager enthusiasm and unfettered audacity that Robert Rauschenberg brought with him to Gemini that set the tone that continues to this day.
Artists welcome the invitation-only opportunity to work at Gemini because Gemini’s tools allow them to fabricate what they cannot in their own studios. Artists are able to create a series of prints and sculptors model prints or multiple three-dimensional forms. In the invigorating atmosphere of the studio, artists work as they like, exploring the familiar and unfamiliar. Some, like painter Roy Lichtenstein, come with a portfolio of drawings to develop. Others, like the intuitive Rauschenberg, bring only their creativity and a soul full of ideas.
When an artist arrives—whether for a few days or several weeks—Gemini’s master printers immediately become collaborators. They make themselves available to help, teach, suggest, or simply step back; their goal is to always make each artist’s creative desires a reality. Each artist has the workshop to him or herself at a given time in order to ensure that all facilities and staff are geared to one artistic process. At Gemini, it is quality—not quantity—that is critical.
Gemini continually receives accolades for its reputation in creation and publication,but it is its affiliation with the National Gallery ofArt (NGA) in Washington D.C. that has created a true legacy for the workshop. In 1981, Gemini and the NGA collaborated to produce the Gemini G.E.L. Archive, a collection of every work Gemini has ever produced. Furthermore, the NGA has held three major exhibitions and produced scholarly catalogues of Gemini art, as well as digitized— for research and scholarship—every image Gemini has created.
It is this tradition of creativity and scholarship that has placed Gemini G.E.L. at the forefront of the contemporary art world.
Image: Elizabeth Murray at work in Gemini’s studio. Photo © Sidney B. Felsen, 2003.