It’s been called a museum, a foundation, an artist’s home/studio. But whatever you call it, you must not miss it: the building at 526 La Guardia Place in Manhattan where Chaim Gross lived and worked.
Interim Director Sasha Davis was a font of Chaim Gross knowledge. Born in 1904 in Austro-Hungary, Gross came to New York City after World War l in 1920. He studied at the Educational Alliance and the Arts Students League.
Success was far from immediate – he worked as a delivery boy, floor cleaner and dish washer while he kept creating art. Although in Europe he’d sketched and painted, in New York he began sculpting in stone, wood, and bronze.
In 1928, he met his wife Renee who became his manager. He would freely admit he couldn’t have created his art without her.
The ground and first floors were jam-packed with sculptures and paintings. Sasha pointed out different pieces: a self-portrait in walnut; a fight between Roosevelt and Hoover in mahogany; and a bronze bust of actor, Anthony Quinn.
After his first solo show in 1932, Gross’s works were acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. From that point on, he was unstoppable.
Gross also became a teacher at the Educational Alliance and The New School. He had a rare philosophy about art: if you wanted to understand it, you absolutely must touch it. Sculptor Louise Nevelson was his most famous student.
Sasha then guided us to the third floor living room, dining room and kitchen. All the walls overflowed with paintings, many done by his large group of artist friends, including Raphael Sawyer, Peter Blume, Red Grooms (once his son-in- law) and other key New York artists. He also had a vast collection of African art as well as works by the Masters such as Picasso, Renoir and Klee.
“Make a point of working all the time,” Gross advised his students. And he did just that – creating art almost until the day he died at age 87.
Visits by appointment only, go to rcgrossfoundation.org or call 212-529- 4906.