Sunday, April 18, 2021

Unlimited Dimensions

Almost 60 years ago I went to C.W. Post College, part of Long Island University.  I was never a great student and most studies bored me to tears.  I had dreamed of becoming a criminal lawyer – in my dreams! I decided on art history. Post offered no such course but there was a fine arts course with a professor who included art history in his classes. Thank goodness, because I could not draw a circle and still can’t!  

The professor turned out to be a known artist, by the name of Walter Gaudnek.  As luck would have it, he needed a ride between Manhattan and Long Island, so I often drove him in my Volkswagen Beetle. Walter turned out to be most interesting. We had no trouble finding lots to talk about and became friends.

I remember once he asked me to come back to his studio to help him give titles to some of his paintings because he had an opening at a gallery the following day, and they insisted that his paintings have titles.  I doubt I was much help, but, in return for my efforts, he rewarded me with a few of his drawings which I have to this very day!

Collection of Gerald Stiebel

As you would expect we lost touch after I graduated college and went on to Columbia for my MA in art history.  But at my age, and with Covid on top of that, I have taken to reaching out to old friends, so I looked up my college professor who responded immediately.

Walter Gaudnek has had an amazing career. On one bookstore website I found 20 catalogs which included his art. Born in 1931 in the then Czechoslovakia, he moved to study art in Germany and then in 1957 received a Fulbright Scholarship to UCLA (University of California, Lost Angeles) to study and teach. A decade later he received his PhD from New York University.  His thesis was “The symbolic meaning of the cross in American Contemporary Painting”.  He continues to delve into the area of religion both for his teaching and his art.

In the 60’s he was part of the current movement of “Happenings”, with his model and later his wife, Audrey Gail Goldman. Here is an image from that period.

At age 90 he has just retired after 50 years of teaching at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Now, he and Audrey split their time between Florida where their daughter, Yve, is currently studying film arts at the University of Central Florida and Altm√ľnster, Germany where, in tribute to his mother, he has a small museum where his art is shown.

Between 1960 and 1986 Gaudnek worked on an installation called “Unlimited Dimensions” which consists of 112 paintings in 3 different sizes forming an immersive labyrinth which is mesmerizing in many ways. You will see how my drawing relates.

1986-87 the installation was shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “Unlimited Dimensions” was the final exhibition under the Director Henry T. Hopkins, who brought the Museum to national prominence. (In 2009 the headline of one of his obituaries was “Henry T. Hopkins dies: Put ‘Modern’ in SFMOMA”.) Hopkins wrote of Gaudnek’s labyrinth “One is reminded of the settings for German Expressionist films of the 1930’s, where the scale and density of the images reduces the adult viewer to child scale and re-introduces to him the fantasy and insecurity of child-hood dreams.”

Now, Walter would like to donate the work to an American museum. When I asked him why, he replied, “I want to give it not only because I do want to give something back---but it was created in New York City--it's totally American--and it belongs in the USA. “

I want to write so much more but I have always promised to keep these Missives short.  If I have stimulated anyone’s imagination as to an appropriate museum to acquire this remarkable work (which is made to fold into relatively little space), please let me know at:

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