Gene Ludins – who will be celebrated in a new exhibition, “Eugene Ludins: An American Fantasist,” opening at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY-New Paltz on Friday, February 10 – has a jewel of a romantic epic in the way that art drew him to the Hudson Valley and changed not only his life, but also those of almost everyone whom he met in his 57 years here. He was a master painter, lending both an innate personal warmth and thoughtful sense of psychology and dream narrative to all that he created.
Born in Ukraine in 1904 but moved to the Bronx at three months old, Ludins studied at the Art Students’ League and came up for Hervey White’s infamous Maverick Festivals in 1929, liking the Bohemian scene enough to make his home there – and eventually take a fellow Maverick, the sculptor Hannah Small, as his wife in 1937. During the late 1930s, Ludins was named supervisor of Woodstock’s Federal Art Project, part of the New Deal’s much-heralded experiment to keep our nation’s artists working, and spread the role of culture throughout our battered but fast-modernizing society. Based on his local success, he was soon named supervisor of the entire New York State Federal Art Project.
During the war that followed, Ludins served in the Pacific and saw enough to shift the way that he saw. After his release from military service, he followed a host of fellow Woodstockers and Arts Students’ League/Federal Arts Project/World War II veterans – including Emil Ganso, Philip Guston and Stuart Edie – out to the University of Iowa, where he taught for 21 years while summering in Woodstock, where he eventually retired in 1969. During his life, Ludins was not only a close friend of every great artist who made his way through his town of choice, but also a recognized and unique talent in his own right, showing at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney and numerous top-shelf private galleries.
“This is a story not unlike others in which a young artist came to the Hudson Valley to be inspired and then stayed, captivated by the beauty of the region and by its innovative community of artists,” curator Susana Torruella Leval has said of the focus of this exhibit.
Ludins has stayed current since his passing in 1996, his auction and sales prices at first consistent and now rising. Moreover, the directness and emotional involvement of his art stays relevant and effective, no matter the time past since its creation. He always captured what life was to him, and what it seemed to mean.
This show of both realist and fantastical landscapes, provocative political allegories and portraits opens with a reception at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, on the SUNY-New Paltz campus, this Friday, February 10 from 5 to 7 p.m., and stays up through July 15. It’s key to understanding our art here, and what we love about local life and dreams. For further information call (845) 257-3844. For more information visit www.newpaltz.edu.