Sonja Sekula, Untitled (Bottle), 1958
b. 1918, Lucerne, Switzerland
d. 1963, Zürich, Switzerland
Sonja Sekula was a Swiss-born artist and prominent figure of the art scene in New York City in the 1940s and 50s. She was born in Lucerne, Switzerland, and moved with her family to New York in 1936. Sekula began her studies at Sarah Lawrence College, then, in 1941, attended the Art Students League and studied under George Grosz, Morris Kantor, and Raphael Soyer. In her mid-twenties, Sekula was heavily involved with the emerging group of Abstract Expressionists as well as the New York surrealists, and she developed a decades-long friendship with Alice Rahon, with whom she had a passionate affair in 1945. Sekula had several one-person exhibitions at Betty Parsons gallery between 1948 and1960, and was included in exhibitions at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery, Art of This Century. Her works in the 1940s were an amalgamation of biomorphic forms, “primitive” figuration, and painterly European modernism. In the 1950s and early 60s, Sekula began to develop an unconstrained personal style. During this period her works employed an automatic and lyrical form of mark-making that related most closely to avant-garde music and prevailing modes of composition. Sekula was acquainted with John Cage, Morton Feldman, and designed costumes for Merce Cunningham. The poetic titles of her works are often written directly on the surface of her paintings and works on paper. Sekula suffered from schizophrenia and returned to Switzerland in the late 1950s to focus on her health. In 1955 she had a solo exhibition at Galerie Palette, Zurich, and she continued to work in Switzerland until her death in 1963.