Art Commentary: Reflections on the Guild Hall Members Show

The Guild Hall Members Exhibition artists.
The Guild Hall Members Exhibition artists. Photo credit: Kimberly Goff

The 76th Artists Members Exhibition at East Hampton’s Guild Hall is not only a tradition, but also important in other ways.

This non-juried show heralds the start of the local art season. Anyone can enter, and the Top Honors winner is given a solo show. The exhibition gives everyone an equal chance to “strut their stuff.” Hamptons artists, emerging or established, can be proud of their rightful place in our prolific art community.

However, it’s a challenge to write about the show each year, particularly because there are so many entries. Museum Director Christina Strassfield does an extraordinary job as the installation designer, but it’s still difficult to decide which pieces to single out. Thus, we’re trying a different approach: attempting to determine what works match the aesthetic tastes of the juror, Robert Storr, Dean of the School of Art at Yale University.

Best Abstract: Julie Small, "Untitled," oil
Best Abstract: Julie Small, “Untitled,” oil

Storr’s winning works often seem a little “off.” A provocative term, we admit, but one that’s authentic. This idea is evoked in Storr’s acknowledgement of formal qualities, especially shape and texture. Consider Julie Small-Gamby’s untitled configuration of brown and orange uneven circles, a Best Abstract winner. Aija Meisters’ oil on linen, “Pisces” is another case in point, featuring two fish, which are also a bit misshapen, although still realistic.

Ann Chwatsky, "My Solar," photograph on canvas
Ann Chwatsky, “My Solar,” photograph on canvas

Storr also has a penchant for Conceptualism as seen in Ann Chwatsky’s photograph on canvas, “My Solar #3,” an Honorable Mention winner. The text surrounding the two shapes floating in space may represent salient elements of both the universe and humankind: intellect (the text) and the physical body. Robert Tucker’s colored ink on paper “Fish on East Hampton Star,” awarded Best Work on Paper, is another conceptual work that similarly combines text and an image. This time, however, the juxtaposition means something different: the existence of primitive life (the fish) and its symbiotic relationship to civilization (the newspaper).

This idea of connections between elements is also seen in Tracy Jamar’s fiber piece, “Fossil,” a Best Mixed Media winner. The intricacy of this work’s pattern (also a little “uneven”) is another quality that Storr appreciates. Consider William Heppenheimer’s acrylic paint on wood panel “Tablet B,” the Top Honors Work. Here a grid arrangement enhances the colorful and ordered configurations.

Best Representational: Fran Hand, "Horse in Landscape," oil
Best Representational: Fran Hand, “Horse in Landscape,” oil

There seems to be no order in Fran Hand’s oil, Best Representational Work. It is a study in juxtaposition, where a horse is superimposed upon another shape. Yet, it’s difficult to define this shape. Perhaps Storr is giving an ironic meaning to the word, “Representational.”

There are other juxtapositional works that may very well fit Storr’s world vision although they did not receive an award. For example, there’s Monica Bank’s untitled porcelain piece of small heads, juxtaposed on top of each other and Eunice Golden’s untitled archival pigment print where shapes are effectively juxtaposed to form interesting designs. Finally, there’s Philippe Cheng’s untitled photograph which gives potency to the juxtaposition of abstract imagery floating in space.

The Artists Members Exhibition at East Hampton’s Guild Hall (158 Main Street) will be on view until June 7. Call 631-324-0806 for information.

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