Boomers, millennials bond over modern art 

click to enlarge "Fire on the Mountain" by Betsy Phillips. - IMAGE PROVIDED
  • IMAGE PROVIDED
  • "Fire on the Mountain" by Betsy Phillips.
After the horrors of the Second World War, the European art world kind of lost its marbles — or at least its desire to keep making straightforward, optimistic art. This disillusionment gave rise to new styles that became new movements, including Abstract Expressionism. I’m not saying that no one made weird stuff before World War II, but after the war, artists really went for it and created art however the hell they wanted to.

Excited about these new styles, a set of Rochester artists in 1951 began hanging out and experimenting with making Modern art. They called themselves The Arena Group, taking their name from the Arena Theater on Hoeltzer Street, where they met and held their first exhibitions.

That theater has since closed, but the group is very much alive. Now calling itself The Arena Art Group, the collective kicked off 2023 — its 72nd year — with a celebratory showcase of artwork by 35 of its members at the Geisel Gallery at Bausch and Lomb Place.
click to enlarge A variety of artists' takes on modernist and post-modernist styles can be seen at the Arena Art Group's winter show at Geisel Gallery, through Feb. 28. - PHOTO BY LAURA KNECHT
  • PHOTO BY LAURA KNECHT
  • A variety of artists' takes on modernist and post-modernist styles can be seen at the Arena Art Group's winter show at Geisel Gallery, through Feb. 28.
A variety of styles are represented in painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, digital art, and mixed media. Jappie King Black’s twisted, tangled vines coalesce into figures displayed alongside Lynne Feldman’s fabric and paint collages of natural scenes and Mandi Antonucci’s gold-leafed, surreal portraits. You can learn more about all the members and their work at arenaartgroup.org.

It’s remarkable that Rochester has a Modern art club that has lasted so long. Today, it has more than 60 members from diverse backgrounds and every generation. Imagine that — boomers and millennials having cultural discussions and showing their wild work together. It can happen.
click to enlarge "Earth Day" by Laura Knecht. - IMAGE PROVIDED
  • IMAGE PROVIDED
  • "Earth Day" by Laura Knecht.
“Arena Art Group Winter 2023 Show” continues through Feb. 28 at the Geisel Gallery (1 Bausch and Lomb Place, thegeiselgallery.com). The gallery is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's life editor. She can be reached at [email protected].
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