Published:New York Times
Saturday, March 14, 1998
Abe Ajay, an artist best known for his shallow, boxlike wall constructions and collages, died on Monday in a hospital near Bethel, Pa., where he lived. He was 78.
The cause was a cerebral hemorrhage, said his wife, Betty Raymond.
Mr. Ajay, the son of Syrian immigrants, worked in his father's candy store and bar in Altoona, Pa., until he graduated from high school. In 1937 he moved to New York City to study at the Art Students League and the American Artists School in Manhattan, where he became friends with Ad Reinhardt, Will Barnet and Robert Gwathmey. He was hired as an artist by the Work Projects Administration in the Depression.
His work as a fine artist got fully under way in the 1960's, when he began to produce reliefs made of found objects. Later his constructions, often intricate in design, were created from tooled wood, gypsum and cast plastics, their appearance reminiscent of the sculptures of Louise Nevelson, suggesting religious architecture. He had his first one-man show at the Rose Fried Gallery in Manhattan in 1964 and a 25-year retrospective at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Conn., in 1990. He was a professor of visual arts at State University College at Purchase, N.Y. His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington. He was represented by Babcock Galleries in Manhattan.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Stephen, of California, and Alexander, of Maryland, and a stepdaughter, Robin Knox of Maine.