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Galleries from Sag Harbor to South Korea Converge in Water Mill for 7th Annual ArtHamptons

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"Unnamed IV," 2012-13 by Bob Dylan. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“Unnamed IV,” 2012-13 by Bob Dylan. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Touching art is generally frowned upon, but Bob Dylan encourages it. In his sculpture, “Untitled IV, 2012-2013,” welded iron objects, many of them vintage, are configured into a giant sculpture on the wall, complete with wrenches, wheels and a lever viewers are welcome to crank.

The singer-songwriter’s artwork was on display Thursday at the launch celebration of ArtHamptons, which opened with “Bob Dylan: The Drawn Blank Series” at Mark Borghi Fine Art in Bridgehampton.

The show was reflective of the weekend it previewed. It questioned what art is, with the musician’s paintings of naked women and city apartments next to crumpled up sculptures by John Chamberlain. It celebrated lesser known artists and multi-faceted, non-conforming talent, featuring a man well known for his music but relatively unknown for his artwork. And it brought in a crowd of local gallery owners, noted personalities and regulars on the East End’s art scene.

“Dylan’s work is a visual extension of his lyrical genius,” said Mike Pintauro, curatorial assistant at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. “Esoteric and personal, energetic and slightly deranged.”

ArtHamptons, which takes place at NOVA’s Ark on Millstone Road in Bridgehampton, has been one of the East End’s largest fine art fairs for the past six summers and the seventh edition promises to be the most diverse yet, with art of varied mediums, styles and prices from across the world.

“It’s the largest selection ever,” founder and president Rick Friedman said on Monday, July 7.

Organized by Hamptons Expo Group, ArtHamptons will present more than 80 global art galleries, featuring 2,000 works from some 500 artists.

Although there is considerable international involvement, the fair remains dedicated first and foremost to the local creative talent abundant on the East End. The theme this year is “Escape,” reflective of the idyllic calm that can still be found in some corners of the East End—even in the summertime.

“There’s a lot of local galleries from the Hamptons showing a lot of local artists,” Mr. Friedman said. “We always have a touch of our relationship with the Hamptons art movement of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s.”

“ArtHamptons is a celebration of the arts in the Hamptons,” said Mr. Friedman. “We’re celebrating that we have such an extraordinarily creative community.”

Local galleries such as RJD Gallery, Bridgehampton Fine Art, Tulla Booth Gallery, Monika Olko Gallery and Chase Edwards Gallery will have booths at the fair.

American representational painter Jane Freilicher, who has a home in Water Mill, and avant-garde theater artist Robert Wilson, founder of the Watermill Center, will be honored.

"IGNAATZ," 1961 painted cut metal by John Chamberlain. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“IGNAATZ,” 1961 painted cut metal by John Chamberlain. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Galleries are coming to Water Mill this weekend from as close as Sag Harbor and as far away as Hiroshima; with 12 countries represented, the show is more international this year than ever in the past.

The Villa del Arte Gallery of Catalonia, which has spaces in Barcelona and Amsterdam, is bringing the work of Fernando Adam, Karenina Fabrizzi and Claudia Meyer, among others. In “Hybrid ML2” by Christiaan Lieverse, mixed media, cowhide and resin are combined on canvas to create a streaked gray woman’s face with sharp eyes that are hard to turn away from.

The French Art Gallery is bringing the work of esteemed French artists such as Nanan and Pierre-Francois Grimaldo from its gallery in Kensington, London, to the East End.  Dedicated to exposing the vibrant street art scene in France, the gallery is also bringing innovative artists like Speedy Graphito, a pioneer of the French Street Art movement since the early 1980s.

Envie d’Art Galleries, located in Paris and London, will be on hand with a broad and diverse collection that aims to promote artists on an international scale, with exhibitions in cities like Brussels, Chicago, Milan and, Singapore and now Water Mill.

The 418 Art Gallery from Bucharest, Romania, 308 Arte Contemporaneo of La Habana, Cuba and Art Company MISOOLSIDAE from Seoul, South Korea, will also have booths at the fair.

Several galleries from Korea will be present, which “encourages viewers to experience a not so familiar world in a contemporary setting—opening up the culture to new interpretations while further contextualizing the artists’ ideas,” Mr. Friedman said in a press release.

ArtHamptons is Thursday, July 10, through Sunday, July 13, at the Sculpture Fields of NOVA’s Ark in Bridgehampton, located at 30 Millstone Road in Water Mill. For more information and a complete schedule of events, call (631) 283-5505 or visit arthamptons.com.

Choice Chamberlains at the Guggenheim

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web Chamberlain shortstop

by Helen A. Harrison

If Larry Rivers hadn’t bought welding equipment and started fooling around with scrap metal sculpture in 1957, if there hadn’t been a rusting jalopy in Larry’s yard in Southampton, and if John Chamberlain hadn’t visited Larry’s place that summer, there would not be a retrospective exhibition of Chamberlain’s sculpture at the Guggenheim Museum right now. It goes to show how circumstances — in this case, three happy coincidences — sometimes change the course of an artist’s career.

By the time he settled into a huge studio on Shelter Island in 2000, Chamberlain was internationally renowned as the sculptor whose art looked like the aftermath a of a demolition derby, although he insisted that his work had nothing to do with car wrecks. He was already working with welded scrap metal when he flattened a couple of fenders from Larry’s 1929 Ford and added some twisted steel rods to create “Shortstop.” That was his first use of the automobile components that became his signature material. Like his earlier sculpture, “Shortstop” pays homage to David Smith, but it also joins the ranks of three-dimensional art made of utilitarian found objects that hark back to Duchamp and Schwitters. When two of Chamberlain’s pieces were included in MoMA’s 1961 survey, “The Art of Assemblage,” they fit right in with their Dada predecessors.

But the crushed automobiles, which implied a commentary on American car culture, pigeonholed Chamberlain with the Pop artists of his generation. The current exhibition, on view through May 13, shows that to have been misguided. He was, above all, a formalist whose main preoccupation was with the plastic and chromatic potential of the material at hand. As he once said, “I’m more interested in seeing what the material tells me than in imposing my will on it.” The fact that it was prefabricated and often prefinished seems to have challenged him to deconstruct and reconstruct whatever it might be, from vintage cars to kitchen cabinets, Tonka toys, cookie tins and urethane foam padding.

The Guggenheim’s notoriously problematic inclined ramp is remarkably sympathetic to Chamberlain’s sculptures — all the more so because, even on a flat surface, they often seem to be precariously balanced. The tension created by the incongruity of sprightly forms made of heavy metallic components is one of his work’s chief delights. And the variety of colors and textures, with gleaming chromed bumpers accenting towers of cracked and crumpled bodywork, sometimes embellished with splashed and dripped enamel paint, reinforces the notion that the materials’ automotive implications are beside the point. It also has led to another misconception, that he was a sort of abstract expressionist painter who happened to work in three dimensions. On the contrary, his work is inherently sculptural, defined by mass and volume rather than surface. If there is a kinship, it’s with abstract expressionism’s improvisational character. And the Dada affinity is at play in his titles, many of them taken from his random collection of words he found intriguing.

The roughly one hundred examples have been picked very judiciously to show off Chamberlain’s versatility and inventiveness. The centerpiece is SPHINXGRIN TWO, a six-legged, 16-foot tall structure of twisted aluminum, based on a tiny 1986 foil maquette, that does the cha-cha in the rotunda. It wasn’t until 2010 — a year before his death — that he found the technical means to fabricate the towering piece he envisioned. His digressions into photography and filmmaking are absent, and the repetitious rut into which he slipped in the 1980s is not in evidence. The exhibition’s title, “John Chamberlain: Choices,” refers to the artist’s decision-making tactics, but it’s just as applicable to the Guggenheim’s shrewd selection process.