When Justin Cronkite arrived at an Elmwood home last year to check out a dresser he had seen on Craigslist, he found more than a piece of furniture. In the garage, coated in decades’ worth of dust, was a stunning collection of paintings.
There were watercolors, oil paintings, sketches, and even eight-foot murals, most in vivid colors. Cronkite estimates that there were almost 300 pieces, some depicting evocative scenes of political turmoil and hardship, and others abstract.
The owner of the home and the dresser, Jon Katz, told Cronkite that most of the paintings were by his aunt, Sylvia Ludins, who died in 1965. Some were by Sylvia Ludins’ sister, Katz’s mother Florence Ludins-Katz. Katz has been in possession of the collection since his father died in 2008. He showed and sold most of his mother’s work and always had it in the back of his mind to do something with his aunt’s.
Cronkite, a filmmaker and perennial go-getter, asked Katz if he could help him bring Ludin’s art into the world. Katz said he would consider it. The two parted ways, but Cronkite couldn’t stop thinking about the art. A few months later, he got an email from Katz granting him permission to pursue exhibiting it. Cronkite jumped into action, dusting the paintings and setting up a makeshift gallery in his home.
By a stroke of luck, Cronkite was introduced to Peter Selz, the renowned art historian and founding director of the Berkeley Art Museum. Selz, who is in his 90s and lives in Berkeley, took a look at Sylvia Ludins’ paintings and was astounded.
“I was amazed to see work like this reappear after all these years,” Selz said, “and from an artist who was really very skilled.” … Continue reading »