Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 1971

"Artist was once headed for career as fighter"

Artist Alfred Skondovitch was dissuaded from a career as a pugilist in the prize ring by Sir Basil Henriques and Sir Laurence Olivier. They encouraged him to pursue an artistic career instead, so he studied painting and sculpture at Toynbee Hall Settlement House in London, England.

Alfred lives at 202 Slater St. with his wife Patricia Mae, and their children—Sidney 6, and Lara 2. He is president of Alaskan Geo-Technical Supplies, Inc. at Dale and Airport Road. "I have not devoted much time to painting recently," he said.

He was born in London and grew up in the east end of the city. His parents were immigrants and moved to New York. "They were victims of the revolution in Russia," he explained. Alfred moved to Alaska about 12 years ago. He met and married his wife here seven years ago.

Alfred followed his three brothers in the prize fighting ring and won feather, lightweight, and welterweight titles. "One defeat was against Randolph Turpin," he recalls, "when we were both naval cadets. He later became the world’s middleweight champion." Alfred and his brothers boxed in the St. Georges district, a tough neighborhood in London.

When he first came to Alaska, Alfred prospected in the Eagle and 70-Mile country. The following year he presented the first exhibition of Modern Art seen here. In a one-man show of his abstract work at the Alaska Art Gallery in 1962, he won a box of crayons and second prize in a juried show of local painters.

When he first came to New York, and before he lived in Alaska, Alfred admired the paintings of the American artist, Hans Hofmann, so he decided to study with him. He started in 1949 at his summer school in Provincetown, Mass., subsequently receiving from him a scholarship to study there and at his school in New York City.

"I began the regular exhibition of my paintings in the so-called ‘Avante Garde’ galleries of the Village in New York," he said, "showing at the Rienzi, which is now a coffee shop, and the Pierino which was actually a sandal shop. The critic, Stuart Preston, likened the shows at the Pierino to the smaller galleries of Paris—‘where the unexpected always lurked.’ Friends of the gallery loaned works by Picasso, Braque, Chagall, and such painters as Franz Kline, de Kooning, and Rauschenberg exhibited there. The late Earl Kerkam, who slept in the back, was another of the exhibiting artists. I also showed works at the James, Tenth Street, Nonagon, Hansa, and Tanager Galleries."

Alfred presented works in 1955 to an International Exhibit of Religious paintings under the auspices of Dr. Paul Tillich at the New York Theological Seminary. His work was rejected by Meyer Schapiro, who served on the jury. "He asked to see me, and thus began an informal education in art history at his classes at Columbia where he permitted me to audit," he said, "and in visits to his home, where one always received both a spiritual and material sustenance."

In 1956, Skondovitch was selected to exhibit his work in a show called Ten Americans. This exhibit visited different places in the United States. Other painters represented in the show were de Kooning, Resnik, and DeNiro. The Egan Gallery became the Poindexter Gallery and the new management placed Alfred in another show entitled Five Younger Americans.

He designed theatre sets for the French Art Theatre, a cultural mission under the sponsorship of the French ambassador to introduce original plays to the people of the United States that were unknown here. He worked briefly as an assistant in the theatre department of the University of Southern California with Professor John Blankenship, who knew of his work in New York. He met banker Percy David Bell while in California who asked him to exhibit his work in Houston, Texas.

While in Texas, he organized a gallery there called Bell Endreman. During the preliminaries, Skondovitch was shot and wounded by an outrage Texan who "felt I was a harbinger of a Communist takeover in the Lone Star State," he muses.

Elinor Poindexter of the Poindexter Gallery in New York said of him, "Alfred Skondovitch is an artist of standing whose work this gallery has been proud to exhibit on a number of occasions in the past. His work is known and respected by a wide circle of artists. His work has been shown in group exhibitions in many other galleries and museums and he has been acknowledged by the art public as having talent and distinction."