Since it’s located in one of the most prominent art regions of the country, it’s no surprise that East Hampton’s Guild Hall would house some major artworks in its permanent collection. So often, though, museum schedules are filled with solo exhibitions—like the Robert Motherwell retrospective that took place at Guild Hall this past summer—and their trove remains behind the scenes. But now through the beginning of the new year at Guild Hall, visitors will have the good fortune to view these artworks, acquired between 2010 and 2014.
Among these are works by Jennifer Bartlett, Victor Caglioti, Jack Ceglic, Chuck Close, Carolyn Conrad, Robert Dash, Rafael Ferrer, Eric Fischl, Cornelia Foss, Ellen Frank, Margaret Garrett, Ralph Gibson, April Gornik, Bernard Gotfryd, Balcomb Greene, Robert Harms, Mary Heilmann, Priscilla Heine, Claus Hoie, Bryan Hunt, William King, Gloria Kisch, Barbara Kruger, Christa Maiwald, Jane Martin, Mercedes Matter, Thomas Moran, Jeff Muhs, Ruth Nasca, Costantino Nivola, Alfonso Ossorio, Betty Parsons, Joel Perlman, Joe Pintauro, Daniel Pollera, Larry Rivers, Clifford Ross, David Salle, Carol Saxe, Joel Shapiro, Drew Shiflett, Arlene Slavin, Racelle Strick, Susan Vecsey, Esteban Vicente, Frank Wimberley and Larry Zox. A lengthy list. However, spread throughout the Moran Gallery and the Woodhouse Gallery, as well as the entrance lobby, the exhibition is not overcrowded and rather offers ample space for each artwork to be viewed and appreciated adequately.
Mary Heilmann’s “Lizard Vision,” 2012, is a standout—painted in an otherworldly, nearing-neon green fragmented by thin red lines, Heilmann’s geometric composition shows the materiality of paint itself, in varying topography of thick plastic-like application, on a canvas that is unexpectedly no longer a rectangular form. It’s a complex painting disguised as simple.
In an entirely different palette, Susan Vecsey’s “White Main Beach,” East Hampton, 2012, is a scene familiar to anyone who braves the ocean beach on an overcast winter’s day. Bathed in whites, with violet tints in the sky and greenish tints in the sand, Vecsey creates a composition that both goes in toward a vanishing point and comes back at you, through the movement in the clouds. The whole inward/outward motion then takes a vertical and horizontal direction from the crosshatching of the linen, on which White Beach, East Hampton is painted.
April Gornik, a master of stormy skies, captures a reckless ocean from a straightforward perspective in “Light After the Storm,” 2012. Charcoal clouds, grey water and brownish sand are separated by a light-struck pinkish-orange frothy mass of sea foam. Waves crash at the shoreline and at a distant sandbar—giving the painting multi-layered depth.
A 2013 David Salle, “Spinning Tango, Out,” is made of oil, acrylic, silkscreen ink on metal with hand-thrown ceramic object; a mix of materials that reflect the mix of imagery so often found in Salle’s work. On the lower half of his horizontally bisected canvas, a sculptural female figure, in sharp contrast, twists her upper body—putting her boney hip at an upward angle and elbow jetting out toward the viewer, as she seems to duck in avoidance of the upper half of the canvas as she leans on what looks like a diving board over a sea of turquoise water. In the upper half, we have a crazed mess of black squiggly lines—and maybe a cargo ship or some ominous island in the distance. Salle toys with the imbalance of purity and chaos as well as our psychological processing of two distinct images.
Throughout the exhibition there is a mix of sculpture, oil painting, mixed media and photography—with dates spanning from Thomas Moran’s “Glimpse of the Sea, Amagansett, L.I.,” 1909, to an early-’60s Esteban Vincente, to works made within the last couple years. “New Additions to the Guild Hall Permanent Collection” reflects the abundance and diversity of artistic practice on the East End of Long Island and provides a thought-provoking exhibition that beckons revisiting.
The exhibition is on view through January 4, 2015. Museum hours are Monday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. Call 631-324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.