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Hamptons Life

Jan 16, 2018 11:10 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Artist David Kennedy Cutler Becomes Living Sculpture This Winter In East Hampton

David Kennedy Cutler and his 'clones' inside the Halsey McKay Gallery.  KYRIL BROMLEY
Jan 16, 2018 3:12 PM

Many art exhibitions begin with the transportation of artwork to a gallery where it remains for a designated time period, but the Halsey McKay Gallery’s latest show pushes boundaries by transporting the artist himself, David Kennedy Cutler of Brooklyn, to the East Hampton gallery, where he will reside as a living sculpture over a 10-week period.

Mr. Cutler, speaking to The Press via video chat in the midst of the hubbub of Manhattan’s West 25th Street, explained how exactly he will be spending the remainder of the winter. Much of the time, he said, he will be making art pieces representing tools, shelter, food and clothing to sustain himself in the confines of the Newtown Lane space. He will do all this while donning a “digitally produced skin suit” and a “thermo-formed plastic mask … with only eye holes” as a response to the way people in the 21st century “have a preference for images of things instead of the things themselves.”

“It’s going to be almost a 
sci-fi narrative where I’m this sole resident of this far out place where nobody else is, and I’m going to make a population of myself,” Mr. Cutler said.

The population will be “clones” of himself—dummies of sorts—that will also be inhabiting the space of the gallery. Noting that this is not meant to be an act of “dangerous performance art,” he explained that these clones will stand in for him while he buys actual food, returns to Manhattan to teach at New York University and maintains other aspects of his life outside of the project. However, he said he will be isolating himself within the gallery as much as he can and will be in character at all times to fully complete his artistic vision. In order to share his progress, the experience will be accessible through a live-stream available on the gallery’s website, halseymckay.com.

He has a list of 10 goals—shelter, food, tools, clothing, warmth and multiple forms of companionship—that will serve as a guide to the art he creates while in the space.

“I have a crate that I’m going to sleep inside for shelter and then I’ll have all my tools and the things I need to make art inside of there that represents my list,” Mr. Cutler said. “I’ll make those things and hang them up on the wall like a traditional art show, but outside the shelter.”

Although abstract in nature, the exhibition will maintain a clear narrative throughout the 10 weeks he is living and creating in the space.

“I’m tapping into this idea of being remote and being away or outside of the focus of culture,” he said, noting the irony of conducting this in the middle of one of East Hampton’s busiest side streets, which creates a “slight degree of parody.”

He referred specifically to the culture of East Hampton and its status as a summer destination for the privileged.

“Instead of a place to get away to, it’s become a place that people want to get to and be around other people and be seen,” he said. “In the summer it really feels like—with the traffic jams and the way people are—like mini-Manhattan.”

Unlike many Manhattanites who escape east only between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Mr. Cutler has experienced life on the East End during its off-season. He said that since moving to Brooklyn in 2001 he has been consistently working as an art installer.

“In a lot of ways I’ve been out to the Hamptons more than I’ve been home to visit my family or any other place that I travel outside of New York City,” he admitted.

In addition to installing art, he was also drawn to the area because of his friendship with Ryan Wallace, who co-founded Halsey McKay Gallery along with curator Hilary Schaffner.

Mr. Cutler said he originally met Mr. Wallace while they were both attending the Rhode Island School of Design. From there, they became peers who continue to inspire each other, he said.

Despite his connections, he said spending more time as a laborer than as a vacationer has given him a unique perspective about the area’s culture.

“I have been to the beaches out there and stuff, but I don’t usually go out and enjoy myself in the way that some people experience it,” Mr. Cutler said. “The way that I feel about it, I have more a kinship to the people that live there all the time, as they [both] work and live out there.”

At the same time, he said, he is well aware of the privilege that brought him there in the first place.

“I feel like the art community itself is really wrapped up in the need for people who have the money to support the arts, so I think I’m pretty keenly aware that part of my ability to communicate and be out in that environment is based on this privileged and rarified world,” he explained. “I don’t know if East Hampton would have as much art happening within it without that.”

To witness David Kennedy Cutler’s exhibition at Halsey McKay Gallery, located at 79 Newtown Lane in East Hampton, sign up for live updates and access to the live stream at davidkennedycutler.com.

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