It Ain’t Pretty: Art in the Hamptons
NOAH BECKER, LANDSCAPE (REALMS SERIES), 2008.
It is not easy to open a gallery in the Hamptons. People with purchasing power are there in abundance, but typically they want the weekends off, and the region’s McMansions don’t attest to the endurance of engagement of its taste. That makes Salomon Contemporary in the woods of East Hampton, a space chartered by James Salomon (he also has one in Chelsea, after working for Mary Boone for a decade), an accomplishment. The West Hampton native has shows work by less-than-beach-ready artists like Lawrence Weiner and Spencer Tunick. In July, Salomon and collector Beth DeWoody co-curate an exhibition, “Hunt & Chase,” featuring work by Marina Abramovic, Robert Mapplethorpe, critic-painter Noah Becker, Walton Ford, and many more. Here, Salomon and DeWoody discuss the nature of art in the Hamptons.
ANA FINEL HONIGMAN: Is there an overarching theory or relationship to nature unifying all the artists in the exhibition?
JAMES SALOMON: Weirdly, I never thought about nature in the decision-making process. I see it as each artist felt the need to capture the essence of chasing something, hunting it down. Beth and I took liberties in what that represented. Hunting is pretty literal, but chasing is more open to interpretation. You want something, you go after it, and you get it.
BETH RUDIN DEWOODY: And hunting doesn’t always imply nature. “Hunt & Chase” seems like a pretty straightforward title, but the content goes beyond that. The work is anything but pictures of traditional fox hunting.
HONIGMAN: How did you decide to co-curate?
SALOMON: It started with some interesting new paintings by Pia Dehne. She had this great series of realist camouflaged archers that had a geometric abstraction to them. Beth and I went to her studio in Bushwick, and on the way home Beth suggested that I pair her up with Michael (Combs). Good idea, but that would be too easy. So I came up with “Hunt & Chase,” told Beth about it, and in the following weeks she emailed me images as suggestions. At the point where I felt that we were sharing the idea, we decided to do it together. There you have it.
DEWOODY: Over years of collecting, I’ve noticed the patterns of contemporary art. That’s how I began curating. I wanted to show many works with a similar theme—and in other cases, color and medium—together in one space to see how they would complement each other visually and conceptually. We have over 30 participating artists, both well-known and emerging.
HONIGMAN: Do you think of summers in the Hamptons as time spent in nature?
DEWOODY: Yes, human nature. For me it’s too hectic. You could say that I’m “hunting” for a quieter place.
SALOMON: Summers in the Hamptons means work. I am not a “hunter”, though, if that’s what the question relates to. I am not very comfortable with a gun in my hand, and do not have the patience for fishing. Maybe Beth and I are expressing our inner “hunters” through this show.
HONIGMAN: How different are the viewers and collectors to your shows in the Hamptons from the usual Chelsea crowds?
DEWOODY: Many of the people that attend the Hamptons’ shows also go to events in Chelsea. But the summer is their vacation time. It takes an extra effort. Who knows, maybe they’re missing a hunting or fishing trip to make an opening?
HUNT & CHASE OPENS JULY 11. CURENTLY ON VIEW AT SALOMON CONTEMPORARY IS WORK BY BILLY SULLIVAN. THE GALLERY IS LOCATED AT 6 PLANK ROAD, UNIT 3, EAST HAMPTON, NEW YORK.