You Can Now Have a First Look at Resnick/Passlof Museum at 87 Eldridge Street

Photos courtesy of the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation. Installation images by Brian Buckley.

Photos courtesy of the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation. Installation images by Brian Buckley.

In the 1970s and 1980s, quite a few abandoned synagogues on the Lower East Side were taken over by artists, who repurposed the often crumbling buildings as quirky studio and living spaces. At 87 Eldridge St., the public now has the opportunity to see the work of an especially renowned local artist, but also to experience the inside of one of these converted shuls.

While the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation won’t formally open its exhibition halls until September, anyone is welcome to visit on Thursdays and Fridays throughout the summer. We stopped by for a media tour this past week.

Resnick and Passlof, Abstract Expressionist painters, were married for 40 years, but lived and worked in separate synagogue buildings a few blocks apart. Following Passlof’s death in 2011, her home/studio at 80 Forsyth St. was sold for $6.2 million, most of the proceeds being used by the foundation to renovate the Eldridge Street building and turn it into a museum.

The painstaking project was handled by Ryall Sheridan Architects. The building, located just below Grand Street, was largely untouched since 2004, when Resnick took his own life at the age of 87. The property, which is not a city landmark, dates to about 1890 and became a synagogue in the early part of the 20th Century. Resnick bought it in 1976. The tenement has been modernized with an elevator, museum-standard climate control and even an 18-foot-long hatch in the floor to accommodate installation of Resnick’s largest paintings. Two beautiful 20+ foot high rose windows in the front of the building have been restored.

photo by brian buckley courtesy of Resnick Passlof Foundation

photo by brian buckley courtesy of Resnick Passlof Foundation

The foundation is dedicated to preserving and studying the works of Resnick and Passlof, as well as showcasing the works of other artists influenced by the Abstract Expressionist movement. There are plans to host poetry readings, talks and performances, as a press release explains, “bearing witness to a particularly fertile creative period in New York City that the artists were active in…”

The opening exhibition is a retrospective, “Milton Resnick Paintings 1937-1987.” Spread across three floors of the museum, it includes works in the foundation’s collection as well as paintings on loan from private collections.  Resnick’s last studio, a small closet-sized room on the third floor, has been restored. It features works on paper, completed during the last years of Resnick’s life (this part of the museum can only be viewed by appointment). A Pat Passlof retrospective will take place in 2019.

photo by brian buckley courtesy of Resnick Passlof Foundation

Resnick and Passlof were introduced by Willem de Kooning in 1948. Resnick biographer Geoffrey Dorfman (he also curated the current exhibition) has noted that Passlof, “believed she had married the great artist of the second half of the 20th century.” In an interview this past spring with the New York Times, Dorfman added, “Milton and Pat were idealistic people on a great artistic adventure. They thought of themselves as revolutionaries, really.”

In July and August you can visit the museum on Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. A grand opening celebration will take place Sept. 15 and 16. More information about the Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation here.

Resnick/Passlof Foundation Set to Open Exhibition Space in Restored Eldridge Street Synagogue

87 Eldridge St. Photo courtesy: The Milton Resnick & Pat Passlof Foundation.

87 Eldridge St. Photo courtesy: The Milton Resnick & Pat Passlof Foundation.

If all goes according to plan, the general public will be able to visit a restored synagogue building, the longtime home and studio of painter Milton Resnick, beginning in February of next year.

The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation is finishing up renovations on the beautiful old building, which will become an exhibition space and headquarters for the foundation. Art News reports today that the museum will debut with an exhibition of Resnick’s work — about 30 pieces.

On the foundation’s website, there’s more about the building and the restoration project:

The building at 87 Eldridge Street has a rich history, reflecting the changing character of the Lower East Side of Manhattan over the past century, having been respectively a tenement, a synagogue, an African American church, and finally Resnick’s studio and home from 1977 until his death in 2004. It was here that Resnick painted many of the heavily encrusted paintings that he became known for, as well as visionary late works of the mid-90s on. The Foundation has hired the firm of Ryall Porter Sheridan to renovate 87 Eldridge Street. They will retain the special character of the over-100-year-old building, especially its soaring main Sanctuary, while making its spaces suitable for the exhibition of paintings, and bringing it into compliance with city and state regulations…

Husband-and-wife and respected artists, Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof, lived on the Lower East Side from the 1960s until their deaths (him in 2004, her in 2011). Passlof lived and worked from another former synagogue building at 80 Forsyth St. The Forsyth Street building was sold in 2013 for just over $6 million. The sale has helped fund the restoration of the Eldridge Street property.

Art News spoke with Nathan Kernan, the foundation’s president, and Geoffrey Dorfman, the organization’s secretary:

While living on the Lower East Side, Dorfman said, “Milton is kind of working in the shadows, and that’s where his most majestic work occurs. He’s somebody whose career is not coordinated with how the art world is moving. He’s a man who had developed his own world, really, within the confines of his own studio.” If all goes according to plan on the remaining construction work, which is slated to wrap by the end of the year, the doors of that studio will soon be thrown open, revealing a major new arts institution. Maintaining that space for posterity will require fundraising from public and private sources, Kernan noted. “That’s a daunting project,” he said, sounding rather undaunted. “It’s a little bit of a gamble that it’s going to all work, but we’re naïve enough to have started it and hope to see it through.”

Photo by Midge Wattles, © 2014.

Photo by Midge Wattles, © 2014.