Guild Hall opens its summer season this weekend with a major exhibition on the photography of Peter Beard and unveils its 2016 outdoor sculpture garden with work by Carol Ross. "Peter Beard: Last Word From Paradise" will occupy the museum's main galleries in a exhibition curated to feature Africa or the East End of Long Island. Carol Ross's sculpture will be featured in the Furman Sculpture Garden with her art also exhibited in the adjacent Wasserstein Family Gallery, located inside Guild Hall. Both exhibitions open to the public on June 18, 2016. A Members Only Preview will be held on Friday, June 17, 2016, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. An Opening Reception, open to all, will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 from 4 to 6 p.m.
"Peter Beard: Last Word From Paradise"
"Peter Beard: Last Word From Paradise" provides a rich perspective on Beard’s extraordinary life and work both in Africa and on the East End of Long Island.
Representing the artist’s first U.S. museum solo exhibition in 15 years, the show presents more than 50 multi-layered collages, drawings, photographs, and diaries from the 1960s to the present, some on public view for the first time. The exhibition includes the artist’s iconic work from Africa that chronicles the change in the landscape from a time richly populated by elephants, rhinos, and crocodiles, to what remains today. Also on view will be never-before exhibited Montauk portraits of his home, family, and friends including Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Jacqueline Onassis, and Lee Radziwill.
Divided into two sections installed in separate galleries, the exhibition is organized around the two outposts that Peter Beard calls home – Africa and the East End of Long Island.
Said Christina Mossaides Strassfield, Museum Director and Chief Curator, Guild Hall Museum, “We wanted to present Peter Beard’s body of work through a different lens, by exploring the artist’s visions of Kenya and Montauk as encampments/refuges where his art and life converge.”
Ever since early childhood, keeping diaries has been a constant source of artistic inspiration. “Life is ever-evolving and with it so is my work. That is one important aspect of doing my diaries—continuous enhancement,” said Beard recently. Using his diaries as points of departure, his complex process often involves incorporating newspaper clippings, dried leaves, feathers, insects, old sepia-toned photos, photographs of women, quotes, and all sorts of found objects, in addition to working with ink and paint. At times the shamanistic quality and visceral nature of his compositions are further animated by the addition of animal blood, or even his own blood.
The heart of the life-long adventurer’s work, his relentless concern about the state of the environment, and his chronicles of the devastation of the animal population in East Africa, are seen in the artist’s richly textured and multilayered work on view. His images have been described as providing a memory of the past, a record of the present, and an image of the future.
Among the exhibition highlights is the striking self-portrait, I’ll Write Whenever I Can, 1965/2004, depicting Beard writing in his diary with his lower body submerged inside the fresh corpse of a crocodile. A number of Beard’s works depict the death of African wildlife especially his beloved elephants, featured in his groundbreaking book The End of the Game (Viking Press, 1965; Taschen, 2015), which chronicled the mass elephant starvation and destruction of the ecosystem in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. (In 1996, the artist barely survived being crushed by an elephant when photographing on the Tanzanian border.)
“When I first went to Kenya in August 1955, I could never have guessed what was going to happen. Kenya’s population was roughly five million, with about 100 tribes scattered throughout… it was authentic, unspoiled, teeming with big game – so enormous it appeared inexhaustible. Now Kenya’s population of 30 million drains the country’s limited and diminishing resources at an amazing rate: surrounding, isolating, and relentlessly pressuring the last pockets of wildlife in denatured Africa,” Beard wrote in the 1990s.
Beard’s visual record of Africa serves as a prophetic warning concerning the irrevocable threat to wildlife caused by human encroachment — cautionary tales of loss, distance from nature, density, and stress that still resonate today worldwide.
In 1974, Beard bought property near the Church Estate, which was owned by Andy Warhol and Paul Morissey, in Montauk, Long Island. Beard’s captivating persona together with the stunning cliffside, beachfront dwelling, drew the Studio 54 crowd. During stays in Montauk, Beard photographed a number of luminaries and friends including Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, the Rolling Stones, Lee Radziwill, and Jacqueline Onassis, whose portraits are included in the exhibition. Then and now Beard applies the same commitment to conservation issues and land preservation in Montauk. His efforts are documented in a series of prints depicting the cliff erosion and preservation efforts deployed to preserve his beloved Montauk bluff.
A devastating fire in 1977 destroyed the main house of Beard’s Montauk property including years of journals along with works by Picasso, Warhol, and Bacon. “When I got the news, I knew that you could either get into self-pitying mode or not, and I picked the later,” Beard said.
Sculpture and art by "Carol Ross" will be exhibited in the Furman Sculpture Garden and the Wasserstein Family Gallery at Guild Hall. The exhibitions reveal a wide range of art by Ross.
In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, art critic Donald Kuspit writes: “Carol Ross gives us two kinds of sculpture: large, free‐standing works, implicitly monumental, sometimes evocative of nature, sometimes figurative, and smaller wall pieces, sculptures as flat as the wall on which they are placed as though they were paintings. The free‐standing works have an epic grandeur. They look solid, weighty, totemic. They’re bound to the earth, as though gaining their strength, their durability from it. In contrast, the wall works have a lyric intimacy, a lighter than air feeling, indeed, seem to float free of the earth—the gulls soar above it with an angelic freedom, the jesters cavort in space with expressive abandon.”
Christina Strassfield, Guild Hall Museum Director/Chief Curator, wrote of the work, “I had the pleasure of seeing Carol Ross’ monumental outdoor sculpture for the first time several years ago. I was immediately attracted to the linear planes and lines that were used to create these totemic pieces. This exhibition reveals the broad scale of Ross’ work from the large, free-standing, colorful metal sculptures whose simple forms evoke the totemic monuments of an ancient world to the smaller lyrical wall reliefs composed of wood veneers that create a visual extravaganza when placed next to one another.”
BASIC FACTS: "Peter Beard: Last Word From Paradise" opens on June 18 at Guild Hall Museum and remain on view through July 31, 2016. "Carol Ross" also opens June 18 and remains on view through October 1, 2016 at in the Furman Sculpture Garden and the Wasserstein Family Gallery. Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street, East Hampton, NY 11937. www.guildhall.org.
A Members Only Preview will be held on Friday, June 17, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. A public Open Reception will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 from 4 - 6 p.m.
Peter Beard will give a Gallery Talk on July 17, 2016 at 2 p.m. and Carol Ross will give a Gallery Talk on July 30 at 2 p.m. Both artists will present their work in conversation with Christina Strassfield, Guild Hall Museum Director/Chief Curator.
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