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Avis Zeidler (1908 – 1995)

Kossack, c. late 1930s, polychromed cedar and walnut relief sculpture, carved signature under the base of the figure, 15 x 8 x 3 1/2 inches (figure), 10 x 19 inches (board), exhibited at Zeidler's solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art, November - December, 1942 (label verso), label verso reads "Kossack / cedar & walnut / Avis Zeidler"


About the Sculpture

Kossack is typical of Aviz Zeidler’s direct carved wood sculptures of the 1930s. The subject looks directly at the viewer, unfeeling behind a polychromed stare. Seemingly influenced by two of her major teachers, California’s Ralph Stackpole and New York’s William Zorach, Zeidler drew on primitive traditions to create what one critic described as her “gruesome wood sculptures.” Rigid, solid, and unmoving are other words that characterize Zeidler’s statues which often seem to have the deeply rooted ancient power of a totem. Zeidler’s “grimacing artificiality does, indeed, manage to hold a sense of force,” is how The San Francisco Examiner art critic put it in 1938 when describing the artist’s award-winning entry at the San Francisco Art Museum. The same words could have applied to Kossack when it was exhibited at the museum four years later. Perhaps the artist was trying to contain the power of the fearsome Kossacks, the enemy of so many Eastern European peasants, by freezing the image in wood.

About the Artist

Avis Zeidler (Nemkoff) was a California-based artist who is principally known for her sculpture and drawings. She was born in Madison, Wisconsin, but moved to Northern California by the late 1920s where she majored in art at Berkely and studied with Lucien Labaudt, Ray Boynton, and Ralph Stackpole. Zeidler also studied in New York with Frank DuMond and William Zorach. As a scholarship student at the California School of Fine Arts, Zeidler’s work was acclaimed for its “distinctive style in decorative conception.” Zeidler married the sculptor Vladimir Nemkoff and in 1936 assisted in his Treasury Relief Art Project commission of a wooden sculpture for the Hollister, California post office. During the 1930s, Zeidler also turned to direct wood carving for her own sculptural practice. She exhibited extensively in Northern California at the San Franciso Art Museum, including solo exhibitions in 1938 and 1942 and as part of the San Francisco Art Association annual exhibitions where she won a sculpture prize in 1938, as well as at the Golden Gate International Exposition and with the San Fransisco Society of Women’s Artists. Zeidler is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and other standard references.


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