Subtle Works in a Reflective Space at The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room in East Hampton is a peaceful, reflective environment. Their current group show continues to inspire serenity with thoughtfully selected works by six East End artists, each creating in different media. Somewhat similar in size, with nothing large-scale, the varied works are also coherently subtle and contemplative in mood.

Immediately captivating is a row of photographs by Wainscott-based artist Mary Ellen Bartley. Each image from her Sea Change series, archival prints on Hahnemuhle rag paper, captures our ocean beaches in a way that’s distinctive for anyone who drives down and parks to watch the waves roll in on a cold day. The ocean doesn’t appear excited or angry, as it can be, but is somewhat daunting nonetheless, moving with a soft coolness, emphasized by the flecks of light, like raindrops or snowflakes caught on a lens, that punctuate the images. Spots of white are in fact light as it filters through Bartley’s studio, as part of her artistic process in creating the photographs.

Circulating the front room, works on paper continue, but in the form of cuts, in the work of Stephen Antoakos (1926-2013). Clean semi-circular and angular cuts into paper recall both the Synthetic Cubist still lifes of Picasso and Braque and Lucio Fontana’s slashes onto monochrome painted canvas. The cut areas protrude into space, adding a real third dimension to the traditionally two-dimensional surface of works on paper.

Space is further explored in the works of Alice Aycock. Complex and meticulous lines in black ink are drawn on paper, creating unusual shapes—tunnels, coils, funnels and more—shapes that when attached and combined explore the architectural depths of the imagination. Created for a 1998 series Project for a Fountain, each drawing was inspired by computer-renderings for a large wire frame sculpture. The intricate blue ink takes on the feel of very thin, aluminum wire—something malleable, delicate and fluid.

Toni Ross’s curious ceramic boxes evoke distant lands and times, yet hold a certain smoothness and luster, even in the clay’s rough surface, that somehow reveals itself as modern-made. Earthly in tone and texture, each box resembles an uncovered artifact; a miniature recreation of an ancient dwelling place. Indeed Ross was moved to create her box enclosures after travels to Egypt where she saw “soul houses” in Cairo museums. Some of Ross’s cubes include tiny windows, which seem to function both aesthetically and in encouraging the desire for the viewer to come closer, to examine and to
explore.

In another room, an interesting pairing between Sue Heatley’s relief prints and Constantino Nivola’s tin sculptures occurs. Nivola (1911-1988), of the old school East Hampton art scene, created the tin figurine-like works late in his artistic career, between 1984 and 1986. Like his larger, marble sculptures, which have been shown at The Drawing Room, they sit somewhere on the line between abstraction and figuration. Figuration then sits on a line between human and animal. “Q.37” is like a little tin chair, with large elephantine ears, or rounded wings, two tiny eyes in the back of the chair and little antler-like appendages up above. Like Ross’s sculpture, they beg closer inspection. “Q15A” is like a standing seagull, its wings outstretched, and then made entirely round, curving inward as if to wrap its arms around you. Nivola’s sculptures, like the works of other artists in the show, are entirely his own. They relate marginally to concurrent art world trends; coming closest perhaps to Brancusi, who, of course, was of the previous
generation.

Night Web, Azure Rings,, Citron Balls, 2013, relief print on Sekishu paper by Sue Heatley. CROPPED

Night Web, Azure Rings,, Citron Balls, 2013, relief print on Sekishu paper by Sue Heatley.

Heatley’s mesmerizing relief prints are vivid in color, with overlapping, undulating lines. They somehow continue with an unexpected softness, hypnotically drawing you in to experience their varied movements—lateral and circular. Circles are broken by lines, thus preventing you from going too far into the image. Unlike some op-art examples, the colors do not shout; nor do they cause headaches. They are carefully selected by Heatley and they each function as much as the shapes they occupy. The overall effect is contemplative.

The exhibit is on view through Jan. 13, 2014. The Drawing Room, 66 Newtown Lane, East Hampton. For more information, call 631-324-5016 or visit drawingroom-gallery.com.

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