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Terrain Gallery records, circa 1950s-2005, bulk 1955-1985

Terrain Gallery records, circa 1950s-2005, bulk 1955-1985

Terrain Gallery

Collection Information

Size: 5.3 linear feet

Summary: The records of the Terrain Gallery measure 5.3 linear feet and date from circa 1950s-2005, bulk 1955-1985. The bulk of the records consists of exhibition files that document over one hundred and forty exhibitions as well as the gallery's relationship with artists. The collection includes founding documents, correspondence, artists' files, writings and an interview, financial records, scrapbooks, and photographs.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Terrain Gallery is an art gallery in New York, N.Y., established in 1955 by Dorothy Koppelman (1920-) and informed by the guiding philosophy of Eli Siegel's Aesthetic Realism. The Terrain has as its motto as stated by Siegel, "In reality opposites are one; art shows this" and also gave rise to the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, a not-for-profit educational foundation."

Provenance

Donated 2006 by Chaim and Dorothy Koppelmann.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Terrain Gallery Records,
circa 1950s-2005,
bulk 1955-1985
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.terrgall
Author
Finding aid prepared by Joy Weiner
Historical Note
The Terrain Gallery is an art gallery in New York, N.Y., established in 1955 by Dorothy Koppelman (1920-) and informed by the guiding philosophy of Eli Siegel's Aesthetic Realism. The Terrain has as its motto as stated by Siegel, "In reality opposites are one; art shows this" and also gave rise to the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, a not-for-profit educational foundation."
In 1954, Dorothy Koppelman (1920-) and her husband artist Chaim Koppelman (1920-2009) formed a partnership with colleagues—artists, writers, photographers—to establish the Terrain Gallery. The gallery's first home was at 20 West 16th Street in New York City, and then moved to 39 Grove Street, New York, N.Y. from 1963- 1973; in 1973, the gallery moved to its present address at 141 Greene Street. Simultaneously, the Terrain Gallery gave rise to the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, a not-for-profit educational foundation. Terrain Gallery continues to give exhibitions and presentations based on Eli Siegel’s statement: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”
The Terrain has featured paintings, sculptures, watercolors, and graphics, as well as photographic exhibitions, which have shown the work of both younger and established artists. Representative art photographers have included Ralph Hattersley, David Bernstein, Louis Dienes, Nat Herz, Lou Bernstein, Andre Kertesz, Steve Poleskie, Len Bernstein, and Harvey Spears. Every exhibition has included comment by artists and critics about how opposites are one in the technique and form of the works of art on view. Chaim Koppelman, for many years, headed the gallery's Print Division; printmakers such as Will Barnet, Leonard Baskin, Robert Conover, Edmond Casarella, Vincent Longo, and Nicholas Krushenick were frequent exhibitors. Though the Terrain does not maintain a stable of artists, the gallery has represented many well-known artists, including Richard Anuszkiewicz, Robert Blackburn, Lois Dodd, William King, Chaim and Dorothy Koppelman, Roy Lichtenstein, Harold Krisel, Larry Rivers, Clare Romano, and Arnold Schmidt.
Beginning in 1955 with a series of talks by the Seurat Art Club, the gallery has held lectures, seminars, and dramatic presentations that are open to artists, scholars, and the general public. As part of its educational outreach, the Terrain Gallery publishes catalogs, broadsides, announcements, and monographs. Eli Siegel’s seminal fifteen questions, “Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?” was published in Terrain Gallery’s opening announcement, February 26, 1955, and subsequently reprinted in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and elsewhere.
Bennett Schiff, art critic for a major New York newspaper, wrote in June, 1957, “There probably hasn’t been a gallery before this like the Terrain, which devotes itself to the integration of art with all of living according to an esthetic principle which is part of an entire, encompassing philosophic theory…Aesthetic Realism: ‘The art of liking oneself through seeing the world, art, and oneself as the aesthetic oneness of opposites’…the theory developed by Eli Siegel….It is a building, positive vision.”
In 1972, the Terrain Gallery appointed Carrie Wilson to serve as co-director with Dorothy Koppelman. The following year, the Terrain became part of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation which includes in its curriculum courses in the visual arts. The Terrain Gallery continues to hold exhibitions and presentations based on the principles of Aesthetic Realism. Chaim Koppelman died in 2009 in New York City. Dorothy Koppelman (1920-) is a consultant on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, and serves as one of the gallery’s coordinators with Carrie Wilson, Marcia Rackow, Nancy Huntting, Dale Laurin, Donita Ellison, and Dan McClung.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 8 series:
Series 1: Founding Documents, 1953-1966 (Box 1; 0.1 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1950s-1981 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 3: Artists' Files, circa 1950s-2001 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Exhibition Files, circa 1950s-2005 (Boxes 1-4, 6; 3.2 linear feet)
Series 5: Writings and Interview, 1955-1974 (Boxes 4-5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 6: Financial and Legal Records, 1955-1984 (Box 5; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 7: Scrapbooks, 1955-2000 (Boxes 5, 6; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 8: Photographs, 1957-circa 1980s (Box 5; 0.1 linear feet)
Scope and Content Note
The records of the Terrain Gallery measure 5.3 linear feet and date from circa 1950s-2005, bulk 1955-1985. The bulk of the records consists of exhibition files that document over one hundred and forty exhibitions as well as the gallery's relationship with artists. The collection includes founding documents, correspondence, artists' files, writings and an interview, financial records, scrapbooks, and photographs.
Founding documents include statements of purpose, notes outlining plans for establishing a gallery, letters, and lists of expenses. Included are several versions of the gallery's manifesto "For the Union of Aesthetics and Ethics," drafted by founding members Martha Baird, Louis Dienes, Nat Herz, Chaim and Dorothy Koppelman, Sheldon Kranz, Barbara Lekberg, Nancy Starrels, and others.
Correspondence consists of letters between Dorothy Koppelman and artists, museums, and arts organizations. Subjects discussed are the scheduling of exhibitions and the gallery's lending of artwork to cultural institutions. Included are Dorothy's letters to art critics, including Dore Ashton, Thomas Hess, and Hilton Kramer seeking press coverage for the gallery's exhibitions. Among the additional frequent correspondents are Sigmund Abeles, American Federation of Arts, Philip Bragar, Lawrence Campbell, Museum of Modern Art (New York), Peter Milton, Lee Nordness, Andrew Rush, and Lynd Ward. Also found are scattered letters from Chaim Koppelman, Eli Siegel, and Theodoros Stamos.
Artists' files document approximately seventy artists and include curriculum vitae, letters, and scattered materials, e.g., exhibition brochures and invitations. Exhibition files provide an overview of the gallery's dealings with artists, museums, and the press, with the bulk of the material dating from 1955-1985. Materials include biographical information, correspondence, sales of artwork, printed material, photographs of exhibition installations and artwork.
Writings and an interview contain annotated typescripts and handwritten drafts on Aesthetic Realism by Chaim and Dorothy Koppelman and others. Included are several draft versions of David Bourdon's interview with Chaim and Dorothy Koppelman. The Koppelmans discuss the influence of Aesthetic Realism in their personal and professional lives as well as the critical response by the press and others to Aesthetic Realism's place in art history.
Financial and legal records consist of ledgers, financial reports, sales and loans, and consignment receipts, with the majority of the records dating from 1955-1983; scattered legal materials document the incorporation of the Terrain Gallery with the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.
Five scrapbooks contain a variety of exhibition materials: letters, statements about the gallery, lists, announcements, and printed material. Two of the five scrapbooks chronicle the gallery's early exhibitions from 1955 through 1960. The other scrapbooks document three exhibitions held at the Terrain Gallery.
Photographs are of Chaim and Dorothy Koppelman, Harold Jacobs, Gerson Leiber, Vincent Longo, Ad Reinhardt, and others. There are a few photographs of artwork by Michael Ponce de Leon and Edith Schloss.
Provenance
Donated 2006 by Chaim and Dorothy Koppelmann.
Related Archival Materials note
Also found in the Archives of American Art is the Chaim and Dorothy Koppelman papers, circa 1930s-2006, bulk 1942-2005.
Processing Information
The collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared by Joy Weiner in June 2012. The Archives of American Art has implemented minimal processing tactics when possible in order to increase information about and access to more of our collections.
Minimal processing included arrangement to the series, subseries, and folder levels. Generally, items within folders were simply verified with folder titles, but not arranged further. Folders within boxes were not numbered. The collection was rehoused in archival containers and folders, but not all staples and clips were removed.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Terrain Gallery records, circa 1950s-2005, bulk 1955-1985. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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