Sidney Felsen, Cofounder of Printmaking Workshop Gemini G.E.L., Dies at 99

Sidney Felsen, Cofounder of Printmaking Workshop Gemini G.E.L., Dies at 99

Sidney Felsen, cofounder of the famed printmaking workshop Gemini G.E.L., died of renal failure on June 9 in his Los Angeles home. He was 99. 

“Richard Serra once said, ‘Sidney prefers to hurry slowly,’ and we think that captured him perfectly,” Felsen’s family said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the news. 

Felsen, his fraternity brother Stanley Grinstein, and Kenneth Tyler founded Gemini G.E.L. (Graphic Editions Limited) in 1966. Since then, the workshop has collaborated with a range of renowned artists, among them John Baldessari, Philip Guston, and Man Ray.

Gemini’s output, as well as the friendly relations its founders fostered between printmakers and artists, ushered in a new era for the medium in the United States, effectively raising it to the status of painting and sculpture.

Josef Albers was the first artist invited to make a print; Felstein was known to mail postcards that acted as cold invitations to collaborate. Soon, Robert Rauschenberg followed, becoming one of the most prolific visitors to Gemini.

Rauschenberg’s Booster, from 1967, was the largest lithograph the artist had made as of then, and Claes Oldenburg’s Profile Airflow (1968) was Gemini’s first multiple edition. (Both publications were included in a 1991 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art dedicated to Gemini.) A 2010 Artforum review of a Rauschenberg show cited how significant the shop was to the artist and his peers, offering an environment that gave them “free rein and seemingly unlimited resources.”  

Under those conditions, Gemini became a clubhouse of sorts for Los Angeles’s emergent artist community—the workshop even reportedly hosted raucous all-nighters. And as its network expanded, Gemini became a landing pad for East Coast scenesters, too. Claudine Ise, writing for the Los Angeles Times in 1999, noted that Felsen made Gemini into “an arterial channel between the Los Angeles and New York art worlds.”

Felsen was born in Chicago in 1924, and moved with his family to Los Angeles as a teenager. A dapper dresser often spotted in a seeksucker suit and straw Panama hat, Felsen first worked as an accountant while taking painting and ceramics classes in the evenings at Chouinard Art Institute (now known as CalArts). 

He was an avid amateur photographer, too, and after founding Gemini would frequently take snapshots of famous artist at work. In 2003, he published a collection of photographs in the book The Artist Observed.

In 2016, to mark the 50th anniversary of Gemini, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art hosted a survey exhibition, organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., of noteworthy Gemini projects from 1966 to 2014, many of which had rarely been exhibited in their entirety. Titled “The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L.”, the show included historic pieces by Johns, Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella, as well as more recent series by Serra and Julie Mehretu.

An exhibition devoted to Gemini G.E.L.’s history is on view now at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

Even as recognition mounted, friends and peers said Felsen remained unchanged, soft-spoken and dedicated to Gemini up to his death. “It was innocence,” Felsen told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “We thought it was gonna be a hobby, that it would be fun to hang around the artists, maybe build up a collection.”

The post “Sidney Felsen, Cofounder of Printmaking Workshop Gemini G.E.L., Dies at 99” by Tessa Solomon was published on 06/10/2024 by