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Mar 11, 2014 9:34 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Artist James Beres Of Sagaponack Dies March 8

Mar 11, 2014 9:49 AM

Artist James Beres, whose paintings helped expand the boundaries of a post-war Modern aesthetic, died March 8. He was 71. Mr. Beres perished in a fire that destroyed his home in Sagaponack.

Mr. Beres’s work, celebrated for its abstract play of color and mood, has been collected around the world, and is in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. His 1970 painting “Doughnuts Whistle Two” was included in a 1971 exhibit titled “Lyrical Abstraction at the Whitney,” and he was recognized as an early member of that movement.

His work was exhibited at David Whitney Gallery, and other galleries in Manhattan and the East End. More recently, his paintings were exhibited at the Monika Olko Gallery in Sag Harbor.

In his 2012 artist statement, Mr. Beres said:

“Colored forms float on the canvas. The forms of color appear to vibrate in a light, weightless state. An ethereal luminosity suffuses the painting. A magical moment ready to change again. A moment in time held there. The pause between words.

“The water mark holes bring you back to the surface of the painting and the painting existing on top of the surface or intertwined with it. Images floating off the surface, at the same time reinforcing the flatness through the negative space created by the removal of the water image. Restraint yet deeply evocative. They give a feeling of some burning truth. The spirit of the moment, the unattainable response to the human condition.”

Known mostly for his large-scale paintings, he also made early forays into printmaking, and, in recent years, pastels. Mr. Beres came of age as a young painter in New York during the early 1970s. His paintings caught the eye of Klaus Kertess, who befriended him, giving him a one-man show at the influential Bykert Gallery.

He was born James Jeffrey Beres on June 11, 1942, in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Dorothy (Imbirowicz), a homemaker, and Louis Beres, a menswear fashion illustrator, both deceased. Mr. Beres grew up on Long Island in Bethpage. A graduate of Pratt Institute with a Master of Fine Arts degree, he taught painting at Marymount College in Manhattan.

A longtime resident of Manhattan, Mr. Beres spent many summers in the Hamptons, eventually building a home in Sagaponack for the summer months. Painting was always his passion, and he continued working throughout his life despite personal struggles. He battled emphysema and orthopedic problems, which led him to abandon the large-scale works he loved for the more intimate pastels.

He is survived by his wife, Lovella (Wilson) Beres of Sagaponack; a brother, videographer Robert Beres of Sag Harbor; and nephew, Matthew Beres of Springs.

The Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor is handling arrangements. Calling hours are Thursday, March 13, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m., with a prayer service at 8 p.m.

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