It’s His 70th Birthday – And His First Gallery Show in Bushwick

The artist and writer Alex Ashendorf has kept most of his paintings in the basement of his home in Staten Island. Most of those works have only been seen by close friends and family, but this Saturday, Ashendorf’s work will be on display at Fuchs Projects, in a show that’s hosted by his son Elan, of local “Bushwick Bachelor” fame. Notably, his father will not only be celebrating his first gallery show, but also his 70th birthday.

Ashendorf immigrated to New York in 1984 from Israel, though he was originally born in France and spent some time in Argentina as well. Though he’s worked in construction by trade, art has always been a large part of Ashendorf’s life; from painting to writing and even composing music, Ashendorf says his art is “just something I had to do because I had no choice, it just came out of me.” After retiring eight years ago, he started devoting more time to his writing and his art, publishing several self-published books, and adding to his expansive, personal gallery.

His paintings have been described as emotionally charged, but Ashendorf doesn’t like to hold himself to one particular style; “Some are realistic, some are surreal, some are abstract,” he told me. “The reason for that is I start with an idea I want to express. I always try to tell a story.” 

Some of the stories his paintings evoke are inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, different religions, cultures, or musings on current events and the state of the world. What unites his work is a focus on connecting to his family and heritage. Ashendorf’s father, Yisroel Ashendorf — himself a writer, activist and public speaker — died when Ashendorf was just four years old. All he knew about his father’s life came from tales told by friends and relatives, as well as boxes of his father’s writing that his mother kept. 

“Most of my life, we had this pile of books in Yiddish, which I didn’t know, I couldn’t read, I didn’t understand,” he said. But at the age of 50, he began to learn Yiddish and translate his father’s work, and eventually his mother’s as well. Much like the piles of his father’s books, Ashendorf said of his own art, “When I’m gone, Elan can do something with it if he so chooses.”

Though it’s only his first gallery show, Ashendorf is no rookie. He says not pursuing art professionally has given him “the freedom to not care what people think.”

“As long as people react to something I did or said, that’s good in and of itself.” 

Alex Ashendorf’s collection will be on display at Fuch’s Projects on Saturday, April 15th, from 3pm-8pm. Fuch’s is located at 147 Thames Street.

Paintings courtesy of Alex Ashendorf.

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