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Elena Borstein

The Gift of Art: 1985-2015

Elena Borstein was a founding faculty member in York College’s Fine Art department where she taught for 32 years. The works on display in this exhibition, done over a period of 30 years, are a gift to the college and will be on permanent exhibition throughout the school. They represent the artist’s desire to give something back to the institution that has given so much to its many students over the past 50 years.

February 7 - March 8, 2019

Gallery Installation views:

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Borstein’s interest in architecture has remained constant throughout her work, even as the locations depicted changed, representing the various places she traveled or reconstructed in her imagination. During her student days at Skidmore College, Borstein spent many hours photographing and painting abandoned Victorian mansions in Saratoga Springs. When she received her MFA at the University of Pennsylvania, it was the architect Louis Kahn who most inspired her with his poetic musings about the meaning of architectural spaces and their effects on the human psyche.

Instead of looking at great architecture of the past, Borstein focused on the vernacular architecture and in particular that which lines the shores, hillsides and islands of the Mediterranean. She used both pastels and acrylic paint in these works. And she developed an airbrush technique, laying down hundreds of thin layers to create luminosity in the painted surfaces.

In the mid 1980’s, Borstein turned to the grittiness of New York’s outer boroughs. From Jamaica, Queens to the streets of the Bronx she found both poverty and neglect and at the same time there was beauty in the color of peeling paint or light on the side of a building.

When she traveled to Cuba between 1987 and 2000, there was again this double message. Walking through the streets of Havana and other towns she emphasized the lush colors on the aging facades at the same time showing decay brought about, in part, by 50 years under a US embargo.

More recent paintings were sourced from images of architectural models, renderings, and captured video stills. Borstein has moved from the experiential to more conceptual and abstract images of architecture; imagining buildings that were never built, such as Homage to Louis Kahn II or re-imagining structures, such as Three Yellows and Symphony of Modules.

Works in the Exhibition:

Artist Biography

Elena Borstein currently lives and works in New York City and the Adirondack Mountains.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, she received her B.S. degree from Skidmore College and her M.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She is Professor Emerita of York College, City University of New York. Borstein’s work is included in numerous major collections including The Museum of Modern Art, NY; Hayden Museum, MIT, Cambridge, MA; Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY; Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY; Newark Museum, Newark, NJ.

Her work has also been featured in many solo and group exhibitions both in this country and abroad including: American Realism at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Three exhibits at the Bronx Museum; and New Acquisitions at the Everson Museum, The Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and the McNay Art Institute in San Antonio, Texas. She was part of the Corcoran Gallery’s traveling exhibition The Liberation which appeared in 11 countries. Borstein is the recipient of a Purchase prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.