“Freedom is an elusive word. Very easy to throw around but actually to do it and be it is not easy”. Gino Hollander, painter, walks the talk and his paintings reflect that. Born in 1924 in Newark, New Jersey, his adventures began at age 13 with a 1,000-mile bicycle trip, followed by his acceptance into the Army’s Ski Troops, the Tenth Mountain Division, which brought him vis-à-vis the most exciting and difficult time in his life. Plopped down in mountain combat in Northern Italy during WWII, he escaped with a blown-apart knee, crediting his survival to luck, nothing more.
His work is a messy symphony, a dialectic conversation on canvas about life…life as chaos, as a mirror reflecting his stories, uniting perfectly into magnum opus. Gino Hollander's work dares us to make adventures of our lives. To jump into a mud puddle with Italian leather shoes, throwing caution to the wind. To run wildly and free as Hollander did in Pamplona at the annual Running of the Bulls, reacting to the rocket blast each morning at 8 o'clock.
As many of the abstract expressionists, Hollander's art tells of his emotions, his reality and the push and pull of life, unlike the more restrained portrayal found in the works of Masters such as Giotto or from the era of Romanesque and Gothic art. Hollander prefers not to be categorized, concurring with the renowned art writer Andre' Malraux who stated, "Style, which like architecture is a language, is not necessarily the most effective means of expressing what it represents." When, during the mid-19th Century, abstract expressionism burst onto the art scene, the essential freedom and spontaneity emerged in so many of the works and then, just as now, those people who could sense the pulsing emotion only wanted to be more a part of it.
The core of this vibrant scene was the colorful characters, painters, writers, and musicians some with whom Gino mingled; one being "Jack the Dripper", Jackson Pollock, who, like Hollander, raced Steve McQueen in his ’57 MG tearing up New York, making the famous Cedar Tavern their pitstop. Norman Rockwell saw the freedom in Gino’s paintings and requested that Gino come up to his studio and paint for a presidential commission as Rockwell, though a famous artist himself, claimed to not possess that elusive freedom. After, on a horse no less, gallantly rescuing Jacqueline Kennedy from the Spanish paparazzi in Pamplona during her first public outing after the death of JFK, Gino hosted her in his studio and gallery, making her a Gino Hollander collector. When James Michener was researching his book Iberia, he stayed with the Hollanders in Spain. And there's the time when Luciano Pavarotti cooked the Hollanders dinner at their home in Spain, singing all the while.
The first time Hollander was in a showing, an outdoor show in New York City, he had been told there was no space for his work. Typical of Gino, he found a way to be shown anyway. After seeing a large brick wall going up in the Village, he asked, “Hey, if I can hang canvases on that wall and not damage it in any way and not put any nails and whatnot, will you let me do it?” Each of the large four by six foot canvases sold, providing the first earnings from his new profession.
In 1962, after having initial success at his gallery on Bleeker Street, Gino decided to move his family to Spain. A chispa de la vida, what Gino calls those lightening bolts in life, where instinct takes over and one knows exactly what to do without explanation. "Spain?!”, exclaimed Gino’s wife, "Takes guts and/or stupidity!" So, just as New York was becoming the center for art, a position first held by Paris, they got on a steamer with one way tickets and six hundred dollars to their name, landing in Franco's Spain, where there was nary a tourist not to mention a chance of selling a canvas.
To quit a successful film career at age 37 and begin painting. Painting, all the rage in mid-20th century New York City…except for one detail, he had never before picked up a paintbrush and his wife was swollen with their fifth child. Perhaps none of it made sense except he could continue teaching himself to paint and work it out, away from the hype, initiating his semi-obscurity which he still is so adamant about. Hollander did exactly that. He worked it out. He painted, often bartering his work to support his family.
These, all threads woven together to form the fabric of Hollander's life, come to life via his paintings on canvas; his subject matter anything which moves his emotions. Women, he thinks all women are great. He paints toros, representing masculinity, and pueblos, inspired from his 28 years in Spain. Seascapes - fishing boats - tenuous grips on life. Horses represent freedom. Groups of people, community. Mountains, nature, which have always moved Hollander. Abstracts. Universes, a new subject for this octogenarian, in his tercera edad, his third age, in which he still paints everyday at 83 years of age, making him one of the most prolific American painters possessing Picasso-like output.
Gino Hollander...crazy as a loon, hätähousu, fuori al balcone, whatever the language...rightly fills these descriptions to a T. If one is privy to a fragment of this man’s life and hasn't yet experienced a chispa de la vida, the bolt will hit or the explanation will come, though not in words, for an out-of-character action...as if dancing to music that not everyone could hear. We feel the momentum that this man has created and, in a heartbeat, spontaneously hop along for the ride...following our emotions and preparing for a bien viaje!
1950-1960 DIRECTOR AND DOCUMENTARY FILMAKER
I was immersed in filmmaking and yet had a vague feeling of wanting some more direct means of self expression, one that would not have the men, money and materials that films involved. NYC was alive with the excitement of abstract expressionism and one of our film hangouts was the Cedar Bar. I caught the disease and immersed myself in both paint and painter’s image having decided that if I were to start a new career at this late date and with a family of four children and one on the way. I had better just paint and learn by doing which is what I have been doing for forty years. What I want out of and for my paintings is emotional expression both for me and the Viewer, each in our own way.
1960-1962 My studio and the first Hollander Gallery, Bleeker St, Greenwich Village, NYC
1962 Move to south of Spain with my family, 2 cats and a dog and $600.
1963-1990 Numerous one-man shows throughout Europe…England, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. During those 28 years living and painting in Spain my paintings were exhibited in the following Hollander Galleries:
1962-1990 Marbella, Spain
1962-1969 Bleeker St., N.Y.C.
1965-l973 Madison Ave., NYC
1970-1980 West Broadway, Soho
1970-1980 Toronto, Canada
1968-1978 Mount St., London
1973-1982 Circle Fine Arts became my exclusive agent for U.S.A. and yearly there were one-man shows in a number of their galleries. At our home in Spain, Cortijo de las Yeguas, in l982 Barbara and I established the Museo Hollander to exhibit our major collection of Spanish antiquities. The museum gained world–wide recognition for the quality and presentation of the collection and was viewed by more than 50,000 visitors.
1990 Donated Museo Hollander to the Spanish Government.
Returned to America.
1991-2009 Lived and worked in Aspen Colorado
2009+ Studio in Ojai, CA
I have always been a prolific painter and as many of you know I feel strongly that paintings equally are the combined work of the artist and the viewer. There are more than 11,000 of my original paintings out there somewhere in ownership, of that about 2,500 have been outright gifts of the artist to various charities and numerous hospitals and institutions throughout the world for permanent exhibition as well as fund raising. If you have a special charity let us please discuss it.