Tucked back from Main Street in Amagansett, the two rooms of ILLE Arts are continually flooded with brilliant Atlantic sunlight, making this cultural center and gallery space perfect for showcasing the works of both well-known and emerging artists. Currently on view in the spacious exhibition rooms is “Four Women,” a show that gallery owner Sara de Luca explained is loosely based on the theme of twisted domesticity.
While each of the artists on view explores the subject of domesticity in very different ways, all use materials from their everyday life in their work. I say loosely, because their work is neither calm nor tranquil, nor centered around family life. Rather, their art is bold, curious, whimsical, heartfelt and certainly interested in the larger world outside their doors and how an artist goes about transforming the familiar into the unknown.
Central to the exhibition is a large installation by the artist Monica Banks. For many years, Banks, an East Hampton resident, has been exploring the collision and coexistence of the past with the present, particularly in her "Cloud" series. In keeping with the idea of concurrence, Banks has presented a two-fold installation piece: Cloud 63, from 2009 floating above Tea and Sympathy, from 2013.
A large, glittering mass of tangled wire and trinkets, Cloud 63 sparkles and hovers in the air like a shimmering dream just out of reach. Close inspection reveals tiny marbles, beads, feathers, fingernail clippings and twists of tinfoil affixed to one another in a synaptic web of candy colored wire. The effect is dazzling and delightful, reflecting a process that Banks said involved the accumulation of household detritus during an entire school year and invokes the joys and wonder of motherhood, marriage and community—the life Banks inhabits in the present day.
Below Cloud 63 sits Tea and Sympathy, an equally poetic arrangement but one imbued with more somber undertones. Tea and Sympathy was born from a series called "Backstory" that Banks began after the 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti. In response to that overwhelming destructive act of nature and its aftermath, Banks started making miniature figures in white, unglazed clay as a tribute to all the anonymous dead that have punctuated human history. This year, after learning about the Terra Cotta Warriors in China—funerary art from 210 B.C—Banks started crafting her tormented dead out porcelain, a more visually fragile, yet stronger material.
Set on a table of decorative china that Banks collected from thrift stores, her porcelain dead lie nestled among a chipped and worn genteel tea service. The presentation has a historical, ceremonious feel. The tiny piled bodies look like brittle white bones or teeth. It’s a hauntingly elegant tribute, and, displayed under Cloud 63, creates a dialogue between past and present, life and death, temporal and eternal.
The interface of history and detritus is also explored in the work of New York based artist Janet Nolan. From hangers, bottle caps, crushed cans and discarded suit ties, Nolan obsessively recycles materials into large sculptural arrangements. In Union Star, 2011, a work displayed on the wall to one side of Banks’s installation, Nolan has pressed 13 aluminum cans into individual star shapes, then arranged them in a 42-inch diameter constellation reminiscent of the first American flag. Each of the red and blue crushed cans represents one of the original 13 colonies. This patchwork vocabulary is a wink and a nod to founding mother, Betsy Ross. A former upholsterer and a female, Ross, too, employed a domestic talent, in her case sewing, to the aid her nation.
Three other sculptures show Nolan’s fondness for recycling the discarded into art object. In Sea Horses, 2010, Yellow Knot, 2012, and Common Coral, 2012, she has repurposed silk ties, stretching them around bent metal to form spirals and coils that delightfully spring either upright on pedestals or bounce off the wall.
Likewise, the artist Suzanne Goldenberg uses debris as the bases for her mixed media sculptures. Goldenberg lives and works in New York but spent the summer of 2012 in Montauk as a resident art fellow at the Edward Albee Foundation. Often she employs pieces of driftwood in improvisations with wire, transforming scavenged fragments of rubble, garbage, twigs and clay into tiny, lyrical sculptures.
In the second room at ILLE Arts, an arrangement of Goldberg’s anthropomorphic Wire Sculptures, 2012-13, dance across a table. Ranging in size from 1 to 6 inches, they are reminiscent of Alexander Calder’s whimsical circus acrobats. As a former homesteader in lower Manhattan, Goldenberg’s graceful forms are made from the obsessive need to make something out of nothing. Her interest is in discovering what lies inside a throwaway piece of material.
Also on view are four of Goldenberg’s small watercolors from 2012/13. Her Urn series consists of charmingly imprecise renditions of an open-mouthed jug. Brightly colored in gouache washes, they resemble ancient Greek pottery.
Finally, Nicole Parcher, a New York and East End artist, employs a more painterly approach to her use of domestic materials. In her collages and oil on canvas paintings she combines elements of wrapping paper, children’s book illustration and tape in bold imaginative designs. Her technique, though captivating, is at times a bit jumbled. But, when Parcher is able to synthesis abstraction with the more handmade elements of decorative pattern making—as in Rubber Hits the Road I and II, 2012, where her use rubber matting and latex sheeting form brilliant squares of overlapping color—her pictorial approach becomes rhythmically eloquent.
Taken together, all these artists show us how widely inventive common materials can be. How the everyday is anything but. A private object, a tie or a teacup, for instance, can transform into an exotic creature or a window on history. From a button to a twist of foil to a human figure, nothing is ever lost or tossed aside but can be recycled into the magical phantasm that is a work of art.
BASIC FACTS: “Four Women” is presented from June 7 to 25 at ILLE Arts, 216a Main Street, Amagansett, NY 11930. www.illearts.com.
An Artist Talk will be held on Saturday (June 22) at 4 p.m. Exhibiting artists are Monica Banks, Suzanne Goldenberg, Janet Nolan and Nicole Parcher.
Want to know what’s happening in the Hamptons art community? How about the North Fork or NYC? Visit HamptonsArtHub.com to find out.
There’s plenty of art news, art reviews, art fair coverage and artists with a Hamptons / North Fork connection.
Hamptons Art Hub. Art Unrestricted.
© 2013 Hamptons Art Hub LLC. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. This includes all photographs and images. Text excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to HamptonsArtHub.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.