Lessons from the sensual East End



Hamptons and North Fork artists offer art for summer’s waning days

On a Saturday evening early last month, the writer and curator Klaus Kertess interviewed the painter Jane Freilicher as part of the lecture series that accompanies the two part exhibition, “North Fork/South Fork: East End Art Now” at the Parrish Art Museum.

Though Freilicher had a large landscape of a Hamptons construction site in the exhibit’s “Part I,” she strayed from talking about her own work. Instead, she offered the audience a few choice art history mini- portraits, such as “Hans Hofmann was a combination of Santa Claus and Richard Wagner.” The poet and critic Frank O’Hara, she said, loved the studios of artists. “He even loved to stretch paintings,” she added.

Freilicher, describing the painter Fairfield Porter as terse, recalled, “He would show up in your studio out of nowhere and not say anything, then make one short comment, like, ‘That’s one of your side–to-side paintings,’ and then disappear.”

“Part II” of the exhibit, which opened on July 25, is full of sensually direct paintings. Jane Wilson’s “Clouded Midnight,” depicts a brooding night sky, an electric orange underneath the dominant indigo clouds.

Mary Heilman has installed a polychrome painting with two chairs of her own design, rhyming one color from the painting with a color used in the objects. Heilman’s ensemble hits a note between seriousness and whimsy, casual décor and reductive aesthetics.

Another kind of rhyming takes place in the painting, “Everything,” by David Salle, where a collection of common objects, such as hats, flowers and fabrics, establish visual correspondences with similar brushstrokes and appearances. The painting was a ruminative essay of complex space, bright color and self-reflexive imagery.

Billy Sullivan’s “Sirpa Milk,” a painting copied from his own photograph, depicts a nude woman breakfasting on a hotel bed. The painting is predominantly white, but discreet intensities of color provide the image with a subtle structure. Delicate smears of transparent yellow enjoin details, such as the place between the pancake and the plate on the room service tray, the creases in the frame on the wall and the tuck of the towel around the neck of the woman.

Sullivan’s decorative freedom, so amply present in this work, contrasts with the murky photo-based paintings exhibited by Chuck Close and Eric Fischl. These paintings underline the pitfalls in maintaining the “look” of the photograph to resolve the image.

Though worthy works of sculpture and other mediums are also on view, the exhibition is, first and foremost, something of a tutorial on the art of the picture.

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