The White Room Gallery in Bridgehampton will fête the works of the late Joe Stefanelli and Sasson Soffer in Master Minds, which debuts on Thursday, April 15.
“A MasterMind is a brilliant thinker with original ideas,” explained Andrea McCafferty and Kat O’Neill, The White Room Gallery Co-owners. “Joe Stefanelli and Sasson Soffer are two world renowned artists who not only live up to that description but who have also shared a connection to East Hampton through Joe’s studio paintings and Sasson’s sculpture park.”
The duo continued, “Joe, originally from Philadelphia, was part of the New York School of abstract expressionists showing with Pollack and de Kooning. Sasson, originally from Baghdad, came to NY to study with sculptor Jose de Rivera and painter Mark Rothko. Sasson lived to 84, Joe to 96.”
Stefanelli studied painting at several institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Hans Hofmann’s School of Fine Arts, the New York School for Social Research, and the Art Students League of New York. In addition to being a member of the New York School Abstract Expressionists – which is recognized as the leading art movement after World War II, he was part of the “Downtown Group” comprised of a collection of creators with studios in lower Manhattan that exhibited in the famous Ninth Street Show of 1951.
His work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Institute, at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery, the Albright Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and numerous other prestigious sites. In 2000, Stefanelli received The New York Krasner Pollock Foundation award for his life’s work, while in 2005 he was honored with the Benjamin Altman Prize for painting from the National Academy Museum.
Growing up, Soffer spent countless hours drawing in his father’s studio. After the Arab-Israeli war broke out, Soffer fled to Iran and eventually made his way to Israel. A few years later, he moved to New York City and enrolled in Brooklyn College where he studied with Ad Reinhardt, Burgoyne Diller, Rothko, and de Rivera.
An early part of Soffer’s career was focused on abstract painting, during which he created what would become his most recognizable color, a deep ultramarine blue that Soffer often highlighted with Arabic calligraphy.
His sculptures have been showcased at Lincoln Center, Battery Park, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Bard College, New York University, Harvard University, Hampshire College, Queens College, and Connecticut College, and can currently be seen in China, Israel, Lithuania and Cuba.
The artist and his wife Stella Sands purchased a house in Amagansett in 1986. The couple spent summers there, as well as lived there full-time for many years. Eventually, he bought five acres off Town Lane Road in East Hampton, which he utilized to harbor several of his monumental sculptures – many of which were exhibited in NYC, including in front of Lincoln Center. Soffer sold that land to East Hampton and it now serves as a sculpture park highlighting Soffer’s exceptional pieces. It is open year-round to the public.
“Two artists from different backgrounds living parallel lives of abstraction,” McCafferty and O’Neill concluded. “As Thoreau said, ‘It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.'”
Mastermind will be on view through Sunday, May 9. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, April 17 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The White Room Gallery is located in 2415 Montauk Highway/Main Street in Bridgehampton. For more information, visit thewhiteroom.gallery.