Abstract art exhibit in Princeton honors the late Al Aronson

This is part of a series from Ilene Dube of The Artful Blogger.

On a day so cold it makes you forget global warming, Trudy Glucksberg’s Princeton home is toasty, from her warm greeting and the steaming coffee she serves to the fire in her hearth. She is surrounded by hand-built ceramic pots, colorful textiles and artwork, including the large canvases of abstract paintings by her late partner, Al Aronson.

The two of them were fixtures at art openings, especially at the Arts Council of Princeton, walking distance from her home.

I expected to someday interview Aronson about his art – he was as colorful as his canvases, and he often talked about how he didn’t like “art speak” — but Aronson’s twinkle went out in October, when lung cancer took his life. Even his memorial service was held in the Art’s Council’s Paul Robeson Center for the Arts.

In honor of the late artist, Arts Council Executive Director Jeff Nathanson has curated Structure and Flow: An Exploration of Contrasts in Abstraction, on view through March 9. The exhibit also features work by Benjamin Colbert, Nancy Cohen, John Franklin and Alyce Gottesman, as well as outdoor sculpture by Mike Gyampo.

Nathanson began talking to Aronson about an exhibit on abstract art in summer 2012. “I was excited about showing some of his vibrant, expressionist paintings and was interested in the emotional, spiritual and spontaneous flow of his work,” writes Nathanson in the exhibit catalog. “It is with great reverence for his work and the influence he had on our local art scene that this exhibition is dedicated to him.”

While going through Aronson’s work, Nathanson learned that jazz influenced his painting. “Structure and Flow is, in many ways, about jazz and improvisation,” says Nathanson. “It is a visual representation of the contrasts between composed and improvised music, as interpreted by visual artists.”

A graduate of Bronx High School of Science and Syracuse University, Aronson had a career as an electrical engineer at RCA and GE before discovering himself as an artist. His late wife, Yvonne, was also an artist, and Glucksberg ran a gallery with her more than 35 years ago.

Even during his engineering career, “Al was always an artist,” says Glucksberg, recounting how he’d taken classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

In his 50s, he completed an associate’s degree in art at Mercer County Community College and took art classes at Princeton University. He was given studio space and had the opportunity to interact with distinguished New York artists. When Yvonne became sick, Aronson took early retirement to care for her.

As an abstract expressionist, Aronson earned many awards, including the Mercer County Artists Purchase Award. Glucksberg says Aronson’s greatest asset as an abstract painter was knowing when to stop. “He was good at division of space and use of color,” she says.

And, she confirms, he didn’t like art speak. “He didn’t like critics who told you what you thought. He was very intuitive.”

Structure and Flow: An Exploration of Contrasts in Abstraction is on view through March 9 at the Arts Council of Princeton’s Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, 102 Witherspoon St., Princeton. www.artscouncilofprinceton.org


The Artful Blogger is written by Ilene Dube and offers a look inside the art world of the greater Princeton area. Ilene Dube is an award-winning arts writer and editor, as well as an artist, curator and activist for the arts.

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