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Hamptons Life

Apr 7, 2009 1:48 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Group show at Spanierman; photography at John Jermain

Apr 7, 2009 1:48 PM

Both the group exhibition at Spanierman Gallery in East Hampton and the exhibition of Daniel Gonzalez’s photography at the John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor serve to remind viewers that a common consequence of living in an environment such as the East End is that residents can all too easily become inured to the natural beauty of their surroundings.

Caused in no small part by a combination of repetitive routines and seasonal torpor, this lack of sensitivity can sometimes be combatted by the kind of gentle prodding provided by these two exhibitions. The two shows have the power to jerk the viewer out of the kind of normal complacency that led Aldous Huxley to note that “human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”

Daniel Gonzalez’s recent photographs, for example, serve as a note to all those who have driven past Long Beach in Noyac a thousand times and only occasionally turn down the mental static of day-to-day routine to acknowledge its singular sense of pictorial drama.

Measuring close to three miles and blessed with one of the most spectacular sunset vistas in the Hamptons, Long Beach embodies a certain aesthetic charm that is simultaneously majestic and intimate regardless of the seasonal changes, whether reflecting clouds in an autumnal sky or jagged with ice stretching into the distance.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the works arises from the painterly quality that Mr. Gonzalez is able to impart. The effect is in part a result of his printing the images on canvas rather than photographic paper, but seems even more a product of his confident juxtaposition and subtle balance of light and color.

In “Aqua Mist,” for example, the horizontal bands of ice in the foreground accentuate a powerful sense of distance as the eye is led further into the composition, where the far horizon meets the sky in a wintry blanket of illumination.

“Sunset,” by contrast, uses a similar horizontal structure in the foreground but then uses the gentle lapping waves as transitional elements that reflect the different gradations of light and color in the sky to create an ambiance of bucolic tranquility.

The exhibition of recent photographs by Daniel Gonzalez continues at John Jermain Public Library in Sag Harbor through April 30.

In a similar vein, in terms of light and color, the Spanierman Gallery in East Hampton now has on view the 3rd annual “Light of Spring” exhibition, featuring four artists whose work, mostly of local vistas and scenes, is heavily structured by illumination (as the title of the show suggests) and the manner in which it is used to create different atmospheric effects.

Of particular interest are works by Susan Vecsey in which the use of oil paints on unprimed linen creates a dynamic sensation of spatial mystery by using color, as it saturates the surface of the work, to create a dramatic illusion of space itself.

In “Untitled #2” (oil on linen, 2008), her use of subtle earth tones and a blue wash recall a Milton Avery seascape; in “Untitled #4” (oil on linen, 2008), the balance of positive and negative space, in combination with her mode of applying the paint, creates an almost dreamlike ambiance that seems to draw from early Chinese landscape painting.

The use of negative space as a means of conjuring illumination is also a primary component in Deborah Black’s works, such as “Going Down to the Water 5” (gouache and crayon on paper, 2000). Juxtaposing loosely contrived abstract figurations of trees and paths against hazy luminous skies, the artist establishes an energetic equilibrium by her use of expressionistic brush strokes and a mellifluous approach to color and tone.

Both Ty Stroudsburg and Priscilla Bowden use hue as a distinctly more prominent component; both allow their work to reflect Henry Matisse’s observation that “color helps to express light,” and both allow their use of compositional space to accentuate the impact of the coloration, thereby allowing the works to appear illuminated as if by some unseen external source.

The exhibition “Light of Spring III” continues at the Spanierman Gallery in East Hampton through May 4.

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