Artists & Galleries

Art Commentary: Hamptons Art Scene 2013 Year in Review

While the entertainment world has its Emmys and Oscars, which recognize annual achievements, this art critic wants to follow suit by honoring outstanding exhibitions during 2013. Naturally, noteworthy shows are often a matter of subjectivity. Yet there remain objective criteria that help determine especially good art presentations.

The first criterion concerns how a particular medium enhances the work. In this instance, it would be photography by Alex Ferrone at the photographer’s gallery by the same name. The landscape images are aerial views, and we would swear they were created through digital technology. But we would be wrong. At second glance, we’d swear they were paintings. Wrong again. Ferrone’s natural scenes are compelling, conveying some of the most beautiful abstract designs we’ve seen in a long time.

Film was another potent use of an aesthetic medium at Guild Hall’s Student Art Festival. This year’s entries continued the tradition of creative and ambitious content, along with technological expertise (especially applicable to the Spring School’s achievements by elementary and middle school pupils). Hats off to the imaginative animation movies that were made by these same students, no mean feat considering limited time and budgets.

A second criterion confronts the effectiveness of materials; the show “Material Matters” at Southampton Cultural Center did an especially notable job, demonstrating the diverse purposes of texture, metal, wax and wire, in particular.

Individual achievements by two outstanding artists deserved celebration as well: Jacquard tapestries by Chuck Close and sculpture by Jack Youngerman. Close’s portrait exhibition at Guild Hall, which included paintings as well, featured one tapestry of Lou Reed which will remain in our minds. (Reed passed away not long afterwards.) The works, created by repeating multicolor warp and weft threads that are optically blended, will also remain in our minds for a long time. Youngerman’s fiberglass pieces at the LongHouse Reserve were astounding as well, fitting organically into the outside setting and reminding this critic of Matisse and Arp.

Speaking of outside settings, Andrea Cote’s installation in storefronts along Riverhead’s Main Street represents conceptual art rarely experienced in the Hamptons. This fact alone gives it special recognition, as Cote combined photographs and films of local residents, along with the motif of eyes.

Our favorite “theme” show was the Parrish Art Museum’s “Artists Choose Artists.” Particularly fascinating was the idea that some artists picked works that replicated their own aesthetic tastes: Ned Smyth’s selection of pieces with a nature theme and Robert Wilson’s conceptual video that Tucker Marder’s photograph of ducks recalled (the extraordinary of ordinary subjects).

Finally, the best-organized exhibit in our minds was the one featuring Claus Hoie at East Hampton’s Clinton Academy. In the exhibition called “Insects: Real and Imaginary,” curator Phyllis Braff did a fine job giving substance and subtlety to a special artist.

Looking ahead to the winter/early spring, 2014, there are several art exhibitions on the horizon that are equally special and varied. Guild Hall’s Student Art Show (Jan. 18 – April 20, including K–12 grades) and its 75th Annual Members Show (April 27 – June 1) are always standouts and an important part of the Hamptons art scene. The Members’ Show at the East End Arts Council in Riverhead (Jan. 24 – March 7) is also salient.

One-person shows of note include Jennifer Bartlett at the Parrish Art Museum, April 27-July 13, 2014.

Group shows that promise to be “out-of-the-box” include Karyn Mannix Contemporary’s “Love and Passion” at Sara Nightingale Gallery and Hampton Hang Gallery (Feb. 15 – 22, 2014) and “Dealer’s Choice” (curated by Arlene Bujese) at the Kathryn Markel Gallery (February), featuring idiosyncratic artists like Bill King.

Guild Hall, guildhall.org; East End Arts Council, eastendarts.org; Parrish Art Museum, parrishart.org; Sara Nightingale, saranightingale.com; Hampton Hang, hamptonhang.com; Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, markelfinearts.com

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