Art Commentary: “Landscape/Seascape” at Vered Gallery

It’s anything but winter inside East Hampton’s Vered Gallery, where bright colors, fanciful flowers and the sensual sea hold court. And did we mention the spectacular artists represented? Sometimes, it’s best that venues not have a theme or a one-person presentation, and this particular exhibit has neither. Just the gallery’s usual artists (and a few others this critic have never seen).

Fundamentally, it’s a pleasure to see familiar artists with their familiar works and be reminded how really good they are. For example, three pieces use background and foreground particularly well. Consider Balcomb Greene’s large “Meeting of Land and Sea,” hanging in a dominant place. The image is overwhelming with its foregrounded boulders and backgrounded sky. There’s nothing “dainty” about the setting, a trait we find common in many landscapes by local artists. Instead, it’s big, bold and powerful, as Greene’s work should be.

Wolf Kahn’s “Dark Fog Bank” offers a striking contrast with its orange/yellow and pink/blue colors, the horizon low and dramatic. This time, colors form the foreground and background, not objects, in this breathtaking image. A small Milton Avery work nearby, “Grey Mountain,” is smaller and less predominant, but the mountain’s steep curves in the background contrast effectively with the diagonal line in the foreground. Robert Dash’s abstract “Rain Across Sage Fields” has a suggestion of a background/foreground perspective as well, the grey and pink colors giving a palatable sense of texture to the image.

Fragility vs. power also plays a part in the exhibit’s art. While Dash’s images may be potent, Thomas Hart Benton’s flowers float in the air; we can almost hear the wind as it pushes the blossoms here and there. The watercolors may be delicate by nature, but they present an arresting contrast to other works of nature by Greene and Kahn. So too, does a small watercolor by Thomas Moran, “ Montauk Sunset.” Its fragile demeanor is another powerful juxtaposition compared to Greene’s work, for example. Now that we think about it, “Everglade Marsh” by Jules Olitski is just as dainty with a mysterious quality added. Perhaps it’s the medium involved (pastel) that gives it such an ambience.

Conversely, Steven Klein’s black-and-white photographs featuring horses recall the strength and potency of Greene’s and Kahn’s works. While the pieces are realistic with their close-ups, the animals exude a personality and energy that’s so authentic, we expect them to jump off the wall at any minute. Hunt Slonem’s images (mostly flowers) also evoke a personality, this time hidden from full view (unlike Klein’s horses). The artist has covered his objects with a mesh that looks quite “real,” yet we find that the brush strokes and scratches account for the effect. Even so, the works also convey a sense of power.

Other flowers by Robert Mapplethorpe and Joseph Stella evoke more force than fragility as well, especially those suggesting fertility (Mapplethorpe’s “Jack-in-the-Pulpit”) and sexuality.

“Landscape/Seascape “ will be on view until Jan. 30, 2012 at Vered Gallery in East Hampton, 68 Park Place. Tel. 631- 324-3303.

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