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Shared Experience: The Steven Barbash Collection

Painter, printmaker, and draftsman Steven Barbash has been collecting art for more than fifty-five years. Not surprisingly, the pattern of his collecting follows the path of his long career. The oldest works in the exhibition coincide with the beginnings of Barbash’s own training at Bard College under Louis Schanker. Subsequently, as a graduate student at Yale, Barbash admired works by his teachers, especially prints by the master etcher Gabor Peterdi. For the first time at Yale, however, Barbash also found himself among a cohort of similarly gifted young artists, like Michael Mazur and Robert Birmelin, who charted a resolutely but innovatively figural course in a sea of abstraction, and whose work Barbash has continued to acquire up to the present day.

Teaching positions at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, and Cortland State University introduced Barbash to new colleagues and students whose work made its way into his collection. These include George Dugan, Zevi Blum, Joan Branca, and Susan Weisend, as well as Evan Summer, a chemistry major at Cortland who went on with Barbash’s support to great success as an etcher.  Following his retirement from Cortland, Barbash has avidly collected the work of local artists, such as printmaker, painter, and neighbor Gillian Pederson-Krag.

Steven Barbash speaks of the works in his collection alternately with admiration and envy. His approach to collecting is a search for methods of mark-making that he himself is unable to mimic, and many of the works with which he surrounds himself express his belief in the mystery and the magic of art making. Sometimes the works are old friends, giving pleasure in the viewing, and underscoring the validity of the hardworking artist’s life. Other times, they offer up a challenge, providing inspiration to keep producing work worthy of the standard they establish.

We are privileged to share Steven’s insight into a lifelong process of collecting, and to be able bring many of his old friends to our public. Our thanks, too, to Judith Barbash, for her design of a beautiful catalogue, and for her goodwill and hospitality throughout the project.

Andrew C. Weislogel
Associate Curator / Master Teacher