Leave it to the Long House Reserve to provide noteworthy art for the public’s enjoyment. (The LongHouse Reserve is the second most popular tourist site in East Hampton.) A newly installed black and white sculpture by Jack Youngerman and an older permanent piece commemorating September 11 by Eric Fischl are two such examples. While they are not similar in any obvious way, their connections bear acknowledgement.
Youngerman’s fiberglass works, some black and some white, suggest the aesthetic evolution of shape, from the artist’s irregular forms during the 1960s, to his circles, curves and hard-edged configurations displayed recently at The Drawing Room Gallery in East Hampton. The sculpture on the Long House grounds, however, possesses other derivations, recalling Jean Arp’s and Henri Matisse’s cutouts. If we really let our imaginations go, they also remind us of using paper to create collages, although each sculpture is made from one seamless piece (at least, it appears that way).
Yet, the works may not merely be about construction. Their names may give an indication of broader meanings. Consider the name, Orion, a word associated with a constellation represented by the figure of a hunter with a sword and belt. Is there something about Youngerman’s shape that may suggest (at least to him) the outline of such a figure? Then again, we may be reading too much into the name.
People do tend to connect not only names, but real objects to Youngerman’s forms. (We find this problematic, although his small sculptures in the past have resembled shells and columns.) If anything, we may associate textures and kinetics to his works instead. His surfaces are smooth and calming, his curves establishing a sense of movement, even though the pieces are firmly planted on the ground. We conclude that the current pieces are about nature; however, the Long House’s environment a perfect complement to such a theme. Yet, it may not matter what these sculptures suggest.
They are organically conceived and executed; evoking authentic beauty.
Eric Fischl’s “Tumbling Woman,” part of the Long House’s permanent collection, shares a few salient elements with Youngerman’s pieces, primarily its sense of motion as the figure moves through space. But Fischl’s work is thematically oriented, created as a result of September 11. In his new book Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas, Fischl states that he was motivated to make a statue to help people cope with their vulnerable feelings about that tragic day. But the public was offended by the work, and it was removed from the
lower concourse of Rockefeller Center.
Tumbling Woman is not offensive at Long House. It is, rather, situated in a subtle spot, surrounded by small plants that become part of the sculpture. What’s fascinating is the sense of graceful free falling that Fischl captures, the idea that the figure hasn’t landed. Despite the ironic feeling of grace, there is an important contradiction at work: the woman possesses large feet and muscular hips. Simply put, the figure has both female and male attributes.
There is one last observation that bears comment. While Fischl’s special sense of space is apparent, the element of time is also a signature element in many paintings. For example, his Bad Boy shows a nude woman in bed; a teenage boy is standing nearby, half-naked. We don’t know if the moment that Fischl captured is the beginning, middle or end of this event. The same is true with Tumbling Woman. Has she just started her descent or is she near the end? An intriguing question to ponder, for sure.
Jack Youngerman’s sculptures will be on view until October 12 at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton (133 Hands Creek Road). Eric Fischl’s “Tumbling Woman” is part of the permanent collection. Call 631-604-5330 for information.