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Older Artists Get their Shot at a Chelsea Gallery

By DNAinfo Staff on November 2, 2010 1:24pm  | Updated on November 3, 2010 12:09am

By Tara Kyle

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — When artist Jonathan Bauch was 67, a Chelsea gallerist told him that though he loved his work — delicately welded steel sculptures in punchy, Crayola hues — Bauch had no future at the gallery. He was too old.

"They look for young blood, a talented young person who, if they can sell their work, the gallery has a future relationship with the artist," said Bauch, now 70, a native New Yorker born in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Age can be a major barrier to the coveted wall space of West Chelsea art galleries, but one exhibition space is trying to change that.

Gallery 307, where Bauch's new "Spirits in Steel" exhibit is showing, is a project of the Upper East Side's Carter Burden Center for Aging, a nonprofit created in the 1970s by the late City Councilman, media mogul and philanthropist Carter Burden.

The gallery aims to showcase top-notch work by older artists and other underrepresented groups. Beyond simply giving these artists a forum, the gallery's mission is to change public perceptions about who makes great art.

According to gallery director Marlena Vaccaro, artists who can sell pieces in the range of $500,000 will always find a space, but it's aging artists whose work sells in the range of $1,000 to $5,000 who often find themselves pushed out.

"It's shocking for a lot of these artists to reach a point in their life when they're not viable just because of their age," Vaccaro said.

In Vacarro's view, Bauch's abstract steel sculptures now on display defy what audiences expect from older artists.

"People have this idea that if you're an older artist, you're going to be an impressionist or something … the work is going to look like a landscape," Vaccaro said.

For Bauch, who hopes his sculptures confer a feeling of optimism on gallery goers, maturity has brought benefits. After his graduation from Parsons School of Design in 1961, he drifted through media including painting, drawing and aluminum sculpture before finding his passion for steel sculptures in the late '90s.

At the start of his career in the '60s, Bauch said he was living for the moment, a space and time he thought would go on forever.

"Frankly, it didn't," Bauch said. "I'm still dedicated to living in the moment. But I recognize that as you get older it takes work."

"Spirits in Steel" will run through Nov. 18 at Gallery 307 at 307 Seventh Ave.