Tatyana Grosman nearly single-handedly elevated printmaking from craft to art form. In doing so, she influenced and collaborated with some of the most important artists of the last 60 years. She also cooked for them, too.
Born in Ekaterinburg, Russia (now Sverdlovsk), the emigré known familiarly as Tanya spent almost half of her life fleeing war, escaping her home country to move to Japan, Dresden, Paris, and eventually New York, where she settled with her husband, Maurice, in 1943. Nearly a decade later, she founded Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), in their cottage in West Islip on Long Island.
The early years at ULAE were historic. The founder selected the musician-painter Larry Rivers, who many consider the Grandfather of Pop Art to be her premier artist in 1957. Rivers worked alongside the poet Frank O’Hara in Grosman’s homey studio, sketching images impromptu as the writer scribbled verses on lithography stones. Later Jasper Johns came, as did James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and so on.
Grosman, who quickly acquired an eclectic base of supporters both locally and in the city, was particularly known for her unconditional hospitality. She only ever invited one artist at the time to use ULAE’s studio, and during their residency he or she had the undivided attention of the master printmaker for weeks, months, and, sometimes, years. There was no pressure to begin nor pressure to finish, and Grosman personally made sure everyone ate—particularly when it came lunch.
“Tanya would never have allowed an artist to cook,” notes Larissa Goldston, who was at the organization’s booth this weekend at the IFPDA Print Fair, the longest running art fair dedicated to fine art prints, in New York. “She revered the artists and thought that all of their needs should be anticipated and met while they were working in her studio.”
But not only would Grosman herself prepare the food for her artists lunches, she’d also serve drinks, play music, and dance; whatever the occasions called for, she’d do. Grosman’s mid-day feasts became so popular that they eventually became an integral aspect of ULAE program, and each artist added their own special twist. When Rauschenberg visited, for instance, there would be lobsters for all to be had—and a whole different itinerary for the day. “He would often show up late with an entourage, have lunch, go for a swim at the local beach, and then return to the studio and start working at 4 pm,” adds Goldston, hinting at the late nights in the print studio after. “On those days, Tanya would have Maurice also prepare a formal dinner.”
Until 1966, ULAE only focused on lithography, but the studio has expanded considerably since. Now under the co-direction of Goldston, ULAE works with the likes of Marina Adams, Joe Bradley, Sarah Crowner, Carroll Dunham, Charline von Heyl, Julian Lethbridge, Eddie Martinez, and Julia Rommel, many of whom showed new work at IFPDA this weekend. The lunches still continue on, too, but rather than a one-woman show, they’re a team activity overseen by Goldston and the rest of the studio’s leadership. It’s a collective effort that would no doubt bring a smile to Grosman’s face before she asked you if you wanted another serving to eat.
Joshua Glass is the founder and editor-in-chief of Family Style.