In Retrospect

Life has relentless challenges, and change often comes with struggle and angst. It takes an extraordinary talent to capture these themes and turn them into a message that touches our lives. Abe Weiner had this talent. Weiner’s varied works exhibit extraordinary technical accomplishment yet at the same time leave us with a message that touches the depths of our senses and our experiences. Weiner’s work often reflects the dark themes of life itself, decay and destruction, struggle and anguish. Yet the contrasting theme in his paintings has always been regeneration, rebirth, renewal and hope. That message with its timeless thread is one we need to hear today and tomorrow.

Abe Weiner was born November 5, 1917 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He lived his entire seventy five years in the city, and it often plays a prominent thematic role is his work, from the early Associated Artist award winner “Back of Isaly’s”  to one of his final works, “Barnway”, a retrospective look at the street where he lived as a child. He loved his hometown and his work reflects the beauty of an American city growing, changing and being reborn. His legacy stretched far beyond his canvases. He was a master teacher and educator, adored by his students. He was a husband and father to three children. He loved all of his roles, doing each exceedingly well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But Weiner’s work was far more than technique with shapes and angles. Mastery was found in his extraordinary use of color, first with oil and tempera paints; later with acrylics. “His themes are the burgeoning of new life out of the old, futuristic landscapes that cup his views between holes in brick walls … or in eggshells.” [2]

He grew up during the tumultuous days of the Depression, coming of age prior to the outset of the Second World War. He loved nature and his works reflected a Rousseau like philosophy where the environment should be cherished, protected and never abused for human reasons. An environmentalist before his time, Weiner viewed nature as the core element of life itself. From the shoots of a young plant to the completeness and perfection of an egg, his work reflected the need for humanity to be in harmony with Creation.

Yet his work depicted the scars made when society fought against nature as it struggled to grow and mature. Often his work caused the viewer to struggle to understand the meaning of a painting and he would observe them trying to analyze his work or “figure it out”. He enjoyed hearing about the meaning viewers would make from his paintings, believing he had something important to learn from them.

“Like a poet, he [Weiner] deals visually with ideas that are hard to express, and yet he is moving in a quiet yet passionate way.” [3] A surreal realist, using common themes and likenesses in uncommon ways, Weiner was a renaissance man with a vision for the future. His paintings reflected 55 years of artistry.

By: Jonathan Weiner

January 9, 2004

[1] Older artists put up a good show, review by Cathy Lubenski. Tribune-Review, Sept. 6, 1991.

[2] Retrospective Reflects Weiner’s Vision, review by Donald Miller. Pittsburgh Post Gazette, December 17, 1981.

[3] Retrospective Reflects Weiner’s Vision, review by Donald Miller. Pittsburgh Post Gazette, December 17, 1981.

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Abe Weiner’s technical excellence is evident in his repertoire. He prided himself on learning the nuances of color and texture along with the use of varied mediums to express just the right message. A graduate of Carnegie Technical Institute, now Carnegie Mellon University, he was influenced by instructors that demanded strong technique from their students. “I found the more technique I developed, the further I could take my paintings” [1] said Weiner in 1992. “At the time [of his education] we had instructors who were interested in technique, in the thought process and in understanding the visual process… instructors made me aware of the world in relationship to the way I worked.”

That awareness made Weiner push the envelope with exacting skill, so much so that during the 1950 Carnegie International Exhibition,  the museum considered putting “The Wall”, a painting with vivid textural effects and a subtle use of color, behind glass. Onlookers were so captivated by the realism that they wanted to “touch the cracks in the wall”!

 

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Exhibitions and Awards

PAINTING IN THE UNITED STATES INVITATIONAL

Annual exhibition of selected American Artists
Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
1946, 1947, 1948, 1949

CARNEGIE INTERNATIONAL INVITATIONAL

Exhibition of selected American and International artists
Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
1950                2nd Popular Prize

 

ASSOCIATED ARTISTS OF PITTSBURGH (JURIED)

Exhibited annually from 1941-1959 and in later years.
Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
1941                First Prize – Purchase award (One Hundred Friends of Art.)
1945                Second Prize
1957                Popular Prize
1958                Martin Leisser School of Design Prize
1959                Honorable Mention
1976                Purchase Award (One Hundred Friends of Art.)

COMMISSIONS

ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America)
Pittsburgh, PA
Mixed Media – aluminum and egg tempera, on aluminum
1958

TEACHING

Ivy School of Professional Art
Pittsburgh, PA

Assistant Director                                                    1961-1972
Teacher of Drawing and Painting                        1961-1980

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts

Teacher of Drawing and Painting                        1965-1993

Irene Kaufman Center (YM&WHA)                     1956-1960

LECTURER AND ART JUROR

Lectured and judged many art exhibits in the Pittsburgh area including Butler, Kittanning Art Association, Vandergrift, and New Kensington Art shows.

EDUCATION

Certificate, Carnegie Institute of Technology                                     1941
Department of Painting and Design
Studied with Samuel Rosenberg and Robert Gwathmey

BIBLIOGRAPHY LISTINGS

Habarta, Gerhard. Lexikon der Phantastischen Kunstler.
The International Encyclopedia of Fantastic, Surrealistic, Symbolist and Visionary Artists. German Edition. 2009. (pages 435,439)

Lorant , Stefan . Pittsburgh (1964)
(Painting, Back of Isaly’s, used as depiction of Pittsburgh). Doubleday Press.

Who was who in American Art.
Who was who in American Jewry.

PARTICIPATION IN INVITATIONAL EXHIBITS

The Society for Contemporary American Art
Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois
1948

13th Annual New-Year Show
Butler Art Institute, Youngstown, Ohio
1948

15th Annual New-Year Show
Butler Art Insitute, Youngstown Ohio
Honorable Mention
1950

Life Magazine – Fifty Most Promising Painters in the United States.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
1950

Pittsburgh Playhouse Exhibition (Invitational)
Pittsburgh Playhouse, Pittsburgh, PA
First Prize
1952

The Ludgin Collection of Contemporary Art
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1954

Ten American Collectors
Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas
from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Earle Ludgin
1955

OTHER INVITATIONAL SHOWS

26th Annual Art Exhibition-Latrobe Public Schools
Purchase Award, One Hundred Friends of Art
1951

Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, IN
1954, 1955

Westmoreland Museum of Art, Greensburgh, PA
1964

Three Rivers Arts Festival
Outdoor Exhibit, Pittsburgh, PA
Variations on.a City – First Prize (Purchase Award)
1968

One Man Show
Ivy School of Professional Art, Pittsburgh, PA
1968

University of Pittsburgh Solo Exhibition (Invitational)
UP Gallery, Pittsburgh PA
1981

70+ and Working (Invitational)
Exhibition of Pittsburgh Artists over 70 years old
Jewish Community Center, Pittsburgh, PA
1991