DISPATCH - Feb 21, 2012 (9:35 p.m.)
SAG HARBOR, NY
If you like "Legs," the time to speak up is running out. The controversy centers on the sidewalk-adjacent installation of the Larry Rivers sculpture, "Legs."
"Legs" is installed on the grounds of a private home in Sag Harbor owned by art gallerist Ruth Vered and Janet Lehr. The artwork has been deemed a "structure" by Sag Harbor Village, making its current location a violation of village zoning laws.
Sag Harbor's Zoning Board of Appeals will rule next month on whether or not the sculpture must be removed. Written comments will be accepted through March 2 by Sag Harbor Village.
The labeling of art as structure--thus lumping it in with garages, sheds, decks, and other permanent additions--is causing a firestorm in the Hamptons art community.
Opponents are bristling at the reclassification of art as architectural object. At a Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting on Feb 21, a few people in favor of letting the "Legs" continue to stride called for the ZBA to walk away by kicking the "structure" classification back to the Village Board for reconsideration.
Other objectors expressed outrage that art and artistic expression (and free speech by extension) are being regulated by Sag Harbor Village--which has its own significant art history and thriving art community today.
Still others said "Legs" has become a staple of the Sag Harbor landscape with visitors seeking to see it.
Zoning Board members repeatedly stated they were not passing judgment on the Larry Rivers artwork--or on art in general--but need to render a decision on whether "Legs" as a structure should be granted a variance so it can remain in its current location. The impact "Legs" has on neighbors and the area must be weighed against the benefit for the owner, several board members said.
ZBA members also expressed fear of setting a precedent that would unlock flood gates for sculptures to appear in mass throughout the village without zoning regulations to protect the rights of residents and the community in general.
"Legs" came under village scrutiny when a building inspector issued a code violation to the artwork as non-conforming to the Village's Building Code. Located in public view on private property, "Legs" is installed inside a garden box abutting the home of Vered and Lehr.
According to Village Code, "Legs" has an insufficient setback from the property line (one foot versus 35 feet); is too tall (it is just over 16 feet tall and the maximum allowed is 15 feet); and it extends too far into the sky plane by 16.7 cubic feet.
The relabeling of art as structure by Sag Harbor Village means the sculpture needs to be granted a special exception from the code by the Zoning Board if it is to remain. If not, "Legs" needs to come down since it violates the village building code.In recent weeks, a letter-writing campaign was waged by the Larry Rivers Foundation and by a number of area residents. Richard A. Hammer, the attorney representing Vered and Lehr, presented the ZBA with a petition of 430 names expressing support for "Legs." Hammer also presented 62 letters in favor of "Legs" standing its ground collected by the Larry Rivers Foundation.
Written comments will be accepted by the Village until Mar 2. The matter will be reconsidered by the Zoning Board of Appeals on Mar 20 at 6:30 p.m.
Larry Rivers (1923-2002) is considered to be one of the founders of Pop Art. His work influenced Andy Warhol, according to the Larry Rivers Foundation. According to their website, Warhol spoke supportively of Rivers's work and influence in the Pop Art movement.
“Larry’s painting style was unique – it wasn’t Abstract Expressionism and it wasn’t Pop, it fell into the period in between. But his personality was very Pop" --Andy Warhol from the book, "Popism."
"Legs" was first created by Rivers in 1969 as part of "Forty Feet of Fashion," commissioned by the developer of the Smithhaven Mall on Long Island, according to David Joel, the executive director of the Larry Rivers Foundation in Bridgehampton. The "Legs" installed in Sag Harbor is from a second casting in 1994 made for a private collector. It was later acquired by Vered.
Larry Rivers Foundation: http://larryriversfoundation.org
"Legs" and Forty Feet of Fashion History: Sag Harbor Express Story written by Helen Harrison (art critic and Director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in East Hampton): www.sagharboronline.com
Vered Gallery: Contains info on the "Legs" battle and Larry Rivers. www.veredart.com
Sag Harbor Village Hall: 55 Main Street, PO Box 660, Sag Harbor, NY 11963. The fax number is 631-725-0316. www.sagharborny.gov
UPDATE - Mar 24, 2012 (1:36 p.m.) The decision of whether they stay or if they go (Larry Rivers' "Legs") was tabled for another month by the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board. The next meeting will be held on Apr 17, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.
UPDATE - Apr 17, 2012 (10:00 p.m.) - The Sag Harbor Village Zone Board gave "Legs" their walking papers at its Zoning Board of Appearls meeting. The board rejected an application by Ruth Vered and Janet Lehr for a variance that would allow Larry River's "Legs" to remain alongside the couple's Sag Harbor home. The sculpture was installed around three years ago, according to the Sag Harbor Express. The artwork, as installed, violates setbacks and other regulations for structures erected within the Village of Sag Harbor.
“Legs” was ordered to be removed by September 15, 2012. Further actions may unfold so the story continues...
© 2012 Pat Rogers and Hamptons Art Hub LLC. All rights reserved.