Relentlessly Engaged: Paule Anglim, 1930-2015
A Tribute to the veteran San Francisco gallerist with additional comments by Annabeth Rosen, Wayne Thiebaud and John Zurier
From her outpost at the foot of Geary Street, gallerist Paule Anglim maintained a magisterial presence in the San Francisco art world. Until her death last week in her 90s, Anglim was an anchor. From her beginnings in North Beach in the 1970s through her 32-year occupancy of 14 Geary Street, Anglim invigorated the Bay Area art world, maintaining contact with its roots in the postwar scene while cultivating new talent and nurturing it with input from New York and Europe. Veteran painter Wayne Thiebaud recalls with admiration the way “she kept that gallery going,” while showing “so many interesting artists,” remembering her as very smart and no-nonsense.
Anglim’s exhibitions reflected her wide-ranging interests and friendships with artists, which led her to follow artistic conversations as they developed. Beginning with those associated with the Beats like Jess (Collins), Joan Brown and Bruce Connor, she followed artists who took their engagement with materials in more conceptual directions like James Melchert and Paul Kos, or developed assemblage into installation like Nayland Blake. Shows of New York artists like Louise Fishman and Milton Resnick emphasized pure painting, but she also represented Robert Bechtle, whose photorealist renderings of suburban streets are quintessentially Californian. Perhaps the best way to characterize her taste is that she relished the rich compost of ideas that sustained Bay Area culture.
But painter John Zurier, who worked with her for nearly 30 years, also recalls Paule as “a direct link to older artists such as Picabia and Max Ernst, and the Parisian painters from the ’40s and ’50s like Fautrier, Jean Riopelle, and Joan Mitchell. She loved the art of conversation and was particularly proud of the interview she did with Picabia’s widow. Paule could be cutthroat in business, but she ran the gallery like an old fashioned salon.” Zurier recalls sitting in Paule’s office when she had to take a call. “I asked if she wanted me to leave so she could talk privately. She said no and then picked up the phone and screamed ‘Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you’ and slammed the phone down. She looked up at me with a little smile and said ‘that was a bit much, don’t you think?’” As ceramic sculptor Annabeth Rosen puts it, “She had exquisite manners and sharp wit, both wielded with precision.”
Rosen also recalls Anglim’s deep commitment “to the artist’s dialogue, which she was relentlessly engaged in,” and Zurier emphasizes her constant reading: “She could talk about the poems of John Montague as easily as the latest mystery novel. Paule loved artists and writers, especially poets, and supported Robert Duncan as much as she did Jess, and Bill Berkson as much as Philip Guston.”
The loss of her presence, and of her institutional memory, cuts deeply, at a time when galleries in San Francisco are being displaced by higher rents, and artists lament the financial changes in the art market along with the money-driven culture of the international scene. Anglim represented not just intelligence and cultural breadth, but a rootedness that seems hard to recover.