Saturday, August 12 sees the opening of two new exhibitions at East Hampton’s Guild Hall: Avedon’s America, celebrating more than 50 years of Richard Avedon’s photographic career, and Jackson Pollock: The Graphic Works. We all know them; we all love them; but what’s the connection? “There’s no connection,” says Christina Mossaides Strassfield, Museum Director and Chief Curator of the Guild Hall Museum, “except that they are both exceptional artists!”
Avedon’s America, co-organized and curated by the Richard Avedon Foundation, is a comprehensive presentation of his famous black and white images that are as visually striking as they are psychologically intriguing. “Avedon was a photographer of his time,” Strassfield says, noting it was “a time of great change in our country, which he was able to document.” It would seem we are currently witness to another time of national change. “I feel that people should come to this exhibition to realize that we have been through a great deal—which is documented in these photographs—have seen many changes and will continue to see, evolve and survive the current crisis,” Strassfield says. The breadth of portraits on view at Guild Hall certainly inspire a deeper understanding of the many characters, ideas and relationships that shaped the cultural discourse of 20th century America, from the Civil and Women’s Rights movements to the Vietnam Conflict, and with pioneering figures in visual, performing and literary arts.
Even if you want to leave your politics at home, Avedon’s America is a must-see exhibition, if only for the simple fact that Avedon was a master of his craft. He was fascinated by photography’s capacity for evoking the life and personality of his subjects and registered poses, attitudes, hairstyles, clothing and accessories as vital, revelatory elements of an image. “My photographs don’t go below the surface,” Avedon once said. “I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues.” Photographs cover a range of subjects including William F. Buckley, John Cage, Janis Joplin, Florence Kennedy, China Machado, Malcolm X, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
There’ll be no politics at the other exhibition, either, of an artist whose work East Enders know well: Jackson Pollock. But if you’re visiting in hopes of finding the abstract poured paintings for which Pollock was best known, you’ll be in for a surprise. Unbeknownst to some less-than-hardcore Pollock fans, the artist experimented with different printmaking techniques between 1943 and the early 1950s and produced a number of small-scale silkscreens and screen-printed greeting cards in his Springs studio.
The exhibition, Jackson Pollock: The Graphic Works, includes six intaglios printed from original plates Pollock created in 1944 and 1945 and six silkscreens printed from screens made in 1951. Both sets of prints are restrikes which were done in 1964 from the original plates under the approval of the late Lee Krasner, Pollock’s widow.
According to Helen Harrison, Director of the Pollock-Krasner House in Springs, “Pollock began experimenting with liquid paint in 1936, and continued to use it intermittently in the early-mid 1940s, [though] paint-pouring didn’t become Pollock’s primary technique until after he moved to Springs in 1945.” Harrison does note that “the engravings, lithographs and early screen prints from the 1930s and ’40s, which he created by hand directly on the matrix, are more related to his drawings, although his paintings of the period also contain similar pictographic symbolism.”
Free admission to both Avedon’s America and Jackson Pollock: The Graphic Works is generously funded by Bridgehampton National Bank and Landscape Details. So you really have nothing to lose by going to check them both out. Both exhibitions will be on display through October 9.
Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street. For more info call 631-324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.