Summer in the city is a slow time for the art world. Galleries on the Upper East Side might as well shut down completely. After springtime oversaturation, with what seems like hundreds of art fairs, in the summer the city galleries see their art-sated clientele turning their attention away from art and toward the beach.
The problem with this cycle is that it causes one to miss the summer collectives, the group shows that are an art world summer standby. This type of exhibit gives galleries the chance to experiment with juxtaposing art styles and with innovative installations. The emphasis on the curatorial aspect of exhibitions has been on the rise, especially among younger galleries and “alternative art spaces,” in defiant rejection of more commercial models. Many established galleries reserve these types of shows for the slow summer months and perhaps for an occasional winter month when art-loving snowbirds head south.
So it was delightful to see a top-notch group show in Southampton just this past weekend at Tripoli Gallery. The show’s title, “Thanksgiving Collective 2012: Modern Salon,” refers to the combination of East End artists, both well-known and emerging and promising young talent from outside the area.
“Modern Salon” also refers to the way in which the show was installed. Salon style is curatorial parlance for an exhibit where art is hung from floor-to-ceiling, such as in the historic exhibitions of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
The Brucennial, a group show in Greenwich Village this past spring, went the salon route, covering every millimeter of space. Tripoli’s new show is not quite that extreme, but it does utilize clusters of paintings instead of evenly spaced distribution.
Hanging contemporary art in the antiquated salon style has an interesting result: it simultaneously dramatizes the newness of the artwork and connects it with the past.
Ross Bleckner’s smooth-surfaced oil on linen, “Untitled,” 2012, is almost like a zoomed in, blurred, and distorted 18th century Dutch vase of flowers still life, beautiful with a touch of melancholy darkness. Left of this hang a group of pictures vastly bathed in white: Nathalie Shepherd’s ghost-like, female figure whispers on the canvas. It is situated above a de Kooning-esque woman by Felix Bonilla Gerena. Areas of painterly-ness, like Darius Yektai’s abstractions and Nick Weber’s introspective portraits, are punctuated by glittery and pulsating Eric Freeman paintings. Towards the back of the gallery space, Michael Chiarello’s geometric and angular sculpture is juxtaposed with the organic and curvilinear lines of Jameson Ellis’ vibrant painting.
On the opposite wall, Bosco Sodi’s rough surface and rusty hues of “Untitled,” 2011, contrasts with Mary Heilmann’s smooth and artificially pigmented “Acid Splash,” 2012. In the front of the gallery are a series of small heads by Darren Coffield, depicting that startling moment when you see someone from upside down and envision their eyebrows to be their mouth. Each work of art relates in some way to its neighbor, and in some way connects to the past.
In this “Modern Salon,” “modern” takes back its original meaning, before art historians and auction houses, through no fault of their own, disconnected the word from its definition. The 24 artists included in Tripoli’s exhibition created these works within the past decade—many just in the last year. Combining the work of international and local artists emphasizes the creative converging of histories and backgrounds on the East End and adds new meaning to “here
Tripoli Gallery, 30a Jobs Lane, Southampton. Exhibition on view through January 24, 2013