For over five decades Sidney B. Felsen (b. 1924) has chronicled the life of the Gemini workshop, conveying with great empathy the joy and demands of the creative process. He has documented the expertise, labor, materials, time, and care that sustain every project, capturing how Gemini’s modes of making transform with each artist. 

First Came a Friendship: Sidney B. Felsen and the Artists at Gemini G.E.L., on view February 20 –July 7, 2024, shares the remarkable history of Gemini G.E.L (Graphic Editions Limited), the Los Angeles artist’s workshop and publisher of limited-edition prints and sculpture eloquently. The photographs record the many close friendships fostered with artists who collaborated at Gemini, and bear witness to the evolving Los Angeles art scene.

In 1966, Felsen co-founded Gemini G.E.L., the Los Angeles publisher of limited-edition prints and sculpture, with Stanley Grinstein and master printer Kenneth Tyler, together with Rosamund Felsen and Elyse Grinstein. An accountant by profession, Felsen had been studying drawing, painting, and ceramics at local schools since the 1950s.  His creative practice came into focus when he started photographing artists at Gemini.

“What is so stunning about Sidney Felsen’s work is how he uses both the understanding of artist practice and his patience behind the lens to yield photographs of such great insight,” says Mary Miller, director of the Getty Research Institute. “His eye opens fresh vistas on 50 years of art-making in Los Angeles.” 

Gemini has championed a boundless sense of possibility, encouraging artists to expand their creative reach and push the limits of printmaking. Within its first five years, Gemini produced groundbreaking editions by Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns, and Roy Lichtenstein, becoming a major force in the post-war American printmaking revival and earning a reputation for dynamic, generative collaboration. Today, this spirit of innovation endures. Gemini continues to collaborate with world-renowned artists who embrace broad-ranging visual languages and technical approaches. Recent artists include Julie Mehretu, Analia Saban, and Tacita Dean. 

At the heart of this exhibition is the Felsen archive of photographs, which was donated to the GRI in 2019 by Jack Shear. The exhibition also features Gemini prints and editioned sculpture as well as related drawings from the GRI’s special collections with loans from LACMA, the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum, Gemini G.E.L., Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and three private collections.  This exhibition will illustrate the rich ties between Gemini and the GRI’s collection and highlight the far-reaching research potential of the Felsen archive of photography. 

“Felsen’s photographs are born of an intimacy with his subjects,” says Naoko Takahatake, curator of the exhibition. “They offer rare insights into five decades of collaborations between artists, printers, and fabricators. They also celebrate the bonds of friendship that shaped Gemini to become more than a workshop and publisher, but a creative community where art is embraced as a way of life.

First Came a Friendship: Sidney B. Felsen and the Artists at Gemini G.E.L is curated by Naoko Takahatake, Director and Chief Curator, UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum. The exhibition is made possible with major support from Jordan Schnitzer and The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation. 

Complementing the exhibition are two free public programs, including a behind-the-scenes printmaking event at the Gemini G.E.L working studio on March 23 where visitors will learn about techniques and participate in making a print. On June 8, a free lecture program at the Getty Center will feature world-renowned painter Julie Mehretu who will speak about her collaboration with Gemini G.E.L.

Visiting the Getty Center
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