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Guild Hall: An Adventure in the Arts, Selections from the Permanent Collection
January 13 to March 25, 2005
(above: Thomas Moran (18371926), A Midsummer Day, East Hampton, Long Island, 1903, oil on canvas/board, 13 1/3 x 19 inches. Courtesy Guild Hall)
A new exhibition at The UBS Art Gallery in midtown Manhattan celebrates the rich legacy of one of America's most influential art communities. On view through March 25, 2005 at The UBS Art Gallery (1285 Avenue of the Americas, New York City), Guild Hall: An Adventure in the Arts, Selections from the Permanent Collection features works by artists who lived on the East End of Long Island, as well as by artists who were inspired by their visits to the area. Organized by Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York from their collection, the exhibition honors artists from the past 120 years who have made the East End a thriving center for creative expression and artistic experimentation.
Guild Hall: An Adventure in the Arts features more than 80 works dating from 1878 to 1994 by Thomas Moran, Childe Hassam, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Jimmy Ernst, Roy Lichtenstein, Chuck Close, Joe Zucker, David Salle and more of the nation's leading artists. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and mixed media works will trace the progression of art movements in America from Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism to experiments by contemporary artists in the 1980s and 1990s. (right: Childe Hassam (18591935), Little Old Cottage, Egypt Lane, East Hampton, 1917, oil on canvas, 32 x 45 inches. Courtesy Guild Hall)
The East End has been a vibrant art community since the 1870s, when the Long Island Rail Road made the area easily accessible from New York City. Thomas Moran (1837-1926) settled in East Hampton with his family in 1884, and his studio soon became a gathering place for artists and intellectuals. A number of Moran's bucolic landscapes are featured in the exhibition, including A Midsummer Day, East Hampton, Long Island (1903), which captures the lush greenery of the countryside. Childe Hassam (1859-1935), one of America's most prominent Impressionists, was a seasonal resident of the Hamptons from 1919 until his death. One of many artists fascinated by the area's unique quality of light, Hassam used short brushstrokes and a vivid color palette to evoke glimmering and flickering rays of light in his oil painting Little Old Cottage, Egypt Lane, East Hampton (1917).
In the 1940s and 50s, the Hamptons became a popular destination for artists, especially the leading proponents of Abstract Expressionism. Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) lived on the East End with his wife, the artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984), from 1945 until his death. An untitled 1951 drawing by Pollock, a highlight of the exhibition and the Guild Hall collection, features thick ink strokes and rounded forms that seem to emerge from the chaos. The drawing dates from a key moment in Pollock's career when he underwent a stylistic shift away from Action Painting and returned to depictions of the figure. Also on view will be Lee Krasner's oil painting Shattered Color (1947), one of a series of paintings inspired by colorful mosaic-topped tables she made from pieces of broken glass, shells, pebbles and other found materials.
Willem and Elaine de Kooning were fixtures of the East End art scene for more than 40 years. Willem (1904-1997) first visited East Hampton in the 1950s, when he sought a place to work in greater peace and isolation. His 1972 untitled oil painting features the open composition, less cluttered palette, and looser, liquid brushstrokes that are emblematic of his later career. The work evokes de Kooning's feelings of being at peace in his rural surroundings and relief at escaping the claustrophobic atmosphere of city life. Elaine de Kooning (1920-1989) often combined realism and abstraction in her work, and one of her drawings from the seven-year Bacchus series will be on view. Based on a nineteenth-century sculpture she saw in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, Bacchus #63 (1982) combines figural and abstract elements, with bold blue and green waves of color encircling the god Bacchus and his attendants. Other noted Abstract Expressionists included in this exhibition include James Brooks, Ibram Lassaw and Adolph Gottlieb.
The East End continues to be at the forefront of the art scene, with resident artists producing forward-thinking and experimental works. Chuck Close (b. 1940), who has lived and worked in Bridgehampton since 1975, developed his signature Photo-Realist style in the early 1970s by experimenting with image fragmentation. A highlight of the show is Phil/Manipulated (1984), a portrait of his friend, the avant-garde composer Philip Glass. Close's methodical and painstaking approach to the portrait, which was created from forming paper pulp into a half-inch grid framework, contrasts with the monochromatic tones and seemingly casual "snapshot" style. David Salle (b. 1951), a summer resident of the East End, often explores ambiguities and odd juxtapositions in his post-modern and surreal works. The exhibition will feature one of Salle's prints, High and Low (1994), which combines layers of appropriated images from American popular culture, advertising and mass media into striking patterns. (left: Chuck Close (b. 1940), Phil/Manipulated, 1982, handmade paper, 68 x 52 inches. Courtesy Guild Hall)
Following is an essay by Christina Mossaides Strassfield and Moura Doyle from the exhibit's gallery guide:
Guild Hall opened to the public in the summer of 1931 as a gift of philanthropist Mrs. Lorenzo E. Woodhouse. Designed by architects Aymar Embury II and his wife, landscape architect Ruth Dean, Guild Hall provided East Hampton with an art gallery, a theater and meeting place -- the cultural center in the center of culture. The East End of Long Island is a unique region that has attracted many diversely talented people such as artists, writers, musicians, actors, and directors over the years. They search for and find inspiration in the natural beauty of the landscape, the magnificent light and the endless beaches.
Long Island, with close proximity to New York City, became a popular tourist destination with the onset of the Long Island Railroad in the late 19th century. The L.I.R.R. was very active in marketing the charms of the region by distributing thousands of brochures and leaflets. In the 1870s, Hudson River School painters portrayed the white sand beaches of eastern Long Island. Winslow Homer came to visit in 1872 and in 1878, a group of New York artists known as the Tile Club traveled to the East End and visited several of its small villages including East Hampton. Thomas Moran and his family settled permanently in 1884. His home and studio became the center of life for artists who visited the village.
In the teens, twenties and thirties many artists including Guy Pene du Bois and George Bellows, visited the area. Later after WWII, the Surrealists aided by artist and philanthropist Gerald Murphy were welcomed guests. They were followed by the Abstract Expressionist artists Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner and Willem de Kooning, Pop artists Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol, Photo Realists Audrey Flack and Chuck Close, 80's and 90's Neo-expressionist artists Eric Fischl, David Salle and Julian Schnabel as well as many contemporary artists today such as Ross Bleckner, Donald Sultan and April Gornik. These artist-residents continue to make the East End the country's foremost art colony.
In 1931, when Mrs. Lorenzo E. Woodhouse dedicated Guild Hall as a cultural center for the community, The New York Times noted that Howard Russell Butler's portrait of Thomas Moran, on exhibit in the galleries, was not a loan, but an acquisition. "It marks the beginning of a permanent art collection which it proposed to build up in Guild Hall," the newspaper explained. From this beginning over 73 years ago, the holdings have grown significantly in size and scope. In the early 1960's, the collection began to focus on the artists who have lived and worked in the region, including some of the country's most celebrated painters, sculptors, photographers and graphic artists. It was not until 1970 when the Dewey Wing, with climate-controlled art storage and processing facilities, was added, that collecting started in earnest. In 1973 the museum received the distinction of being accredited by the American Association of Museums. Today, the holdings of 19th, 20th and 21st century art number some 1,900 objects which include paintings, sculpture, prints, watercolors, photographs and drawings by internationally renowned artists. The museum continues to acquire works by donation and acquisition.
The exhibition space consists of four galleries: Moran, Woodhouse, Spiga and Leidy; as well as the Ruth Dean Garden and the Myrtle Shepherd Sculpture Garden. The year-round schedule of changing exhibitions includes both one-person and group shows, an annual Members Exhibition and the Student Arts Festival.
Guild Hall is also home to the historic John Drew Theater, with a gorgeous jewel box proscenium stage that has hosted a veritable who's who of 20th century theatrical luminaries since its inception in 1931. John Drew, a celebrated thespian, bon vivant and reigning lion of the Barrymore clan, chose East Hampton as his summer getaway. John Drew so charmed the citizens of the town that they dedicated the theater posthumously in his honor. The Theater enchants audiences with its octagonal shape and blue and white striped tent-like ceiling that sweeps up to a chandelier of glass balloons. But it's not just the interior that captivates audiences; it is the magic of what happens on the stage. World-class performances by such entertainers as Academy Award winning actress Mercedes Ruehl, comedienne Joy Behar, performance artist Laurie Anderson and Robert Wilson, as well as author and playwright Wendy Wasserstein, cabaret stars Andrea Marcovicci and Michael Feinstein and jazz greats such as Earl Klugh and Regina Carter. Like the Guild Hall Museum, the John Drew Theater will continue to ignite the imagination, curiosity and wonder of our community, moving us forward into a new and exciting chapter of our history.
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