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At Marder’s: A Big Show With Many Little Pieces

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web Big Show image

By Ellen Frankman

When Silas Marder considers what he enjoys most about any given art show, one thing comes to mind.

Accessibility. And the unconventional curating of art in Marder’s “The Big Show” provides just that.

“As a visitor to a show, I like to feel that I can be apart of it and walk away with a piece of art,” explains Marder, owner of Bridgehampton’s Silas Marder Gallery and the visionary behind “The Big Show.”  Now in its fifth year, this summer’s show has attracted 54 artists, some local others not, all commissioned by Marder to create three 8” x 10” works of art.  Each artist is provided with three 12 ounce blank cotton canvases, all heavy and of high quality, though some artists chose to break down the canvas to create more sculptural pieces.

The small scale of the pieces makes lower price points feasible. The work of emerging artists will garner a couple hundred dollars, with the costs rising in accordance with the more established painters.

“We want to be available to all different type of people regardless of budgets and backgrounds and points of view,” explains Marder. “Because of the number of artists involved and because of their ranges and their backgrounds the show allows for that.”

And Marder set no boundaries when seeking the talent to participate.

“Usually we carry over a small number of artists from the year before. Otherwise we go out every year and look for new work and look for new artists. We really sort of keep an open mind about where they come from,” he explains.

“You just never know who’s going to show up. You can’t predict this show at all,” says Springs landscape artist Cynthia Knott, a participating artist in “The Big Show 5” who has done the show previously.

Though Marder chooses not to mandate a theme for the artists to work from, a consistency nevertheless arises between the pieces.

This cohesiveness is largely due to the size restrictions. “To do a show this way and not have a specific theme that all of the artists are working towards…without that you really need something to give the show a visual consistency to make it so it’s not overwhelming visually and it’s not chaotic and distracting,” says Marder.

According to the curator, the continuity in size is what makes it possible for an individual to view and absorb each work without having one overpower another.

For some artists though, the size isn’t easy to work with.

“I find this show one of the hardest ones to do because of the constraints of the 8” x 10” size,” admits artist Erica Huberty of Sag Harbor. “This just happens to be a scale that I have a mental block on. It’s hard for me to translate.”

Despite the somewhat trying nature of the size requirement, a cohesive quality of the show also emerges due to the fact that each piece of work is new to its creator.

“All the work is now,” states Marder. “Part of the fun of the show is that we don’t know what the works look like until we get them. It injects a real energy to the show because everything is so current.”

“I am forced into having to complete something completely new for this show so it is intrinsically coming from where I am right now,” explains Huberty.

Huberty’s work for the show is representational, pieces made on printed and plain textiles embroidered with silk or cotton or wool threads, painted with acrylics.  She is inspired by Naturalist drawings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and has found that her current thoughts have translated into the work she has completed for The Big Show 5. In fact, the new work produced for the show has even pushed her to create similar pieces for an upcoming solo installation.

Cynthia Knott feels a bit more at home amidst the 8” x 10” canvases supplied for the show.

“It’s fun. It’s like doing a little miniature,” she remarks of her contributed pieces, three classic seascapes she completed on location in Amagansett, working at sunset every night for a week.

For Knott, a sense of continuity arises out of the atypical likeness in size of all 162 pieces.

“The curiosity that is created due to how to handle that small size makes it more interesting to look at how each artist handles actually going smaller, to see if the artist can make their statement bigger inside the smaller frame, or even smaller inside the smaller frame,” explains Knott.

Furthermore, “a narrative starts to happen” when the 162 pieces are mixed together spontaneously to share one space within the walls of the gallery.

“They begin to work together as one big set,” Marder remarks. “The nature of the show is that it really speaks to everyone.”

“I think curatorially that is Silas’s strong suit,” shares Knott. “I know he has a take on things that is very contemporary.”

And the lineup for this year’s “The Big Show 5” is sure to impress. In praise of the event Huberty remarks, “Silas is really good at drawing on a much more old fashioned idea of the Hamptons as being an artistic center. This happens to be a place where many local artists live and work, who are also showing all over the world.”

“The Big Show 5” will exhibit at the Silas Marder Gallery, 120 Snake Hollow Road, Bridgehampton and run until. A reception will be held on Saturday, August 7th from 5 to 9 p.m. with a live honey bee demonstration at 6 p.m. 702-2306.

A Thoughtful Space For Art

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Sometimes it’s simply easier to think in an uncluttered space, and Silas Marder knows as much. He knows that by not filling the old Christys Auction House space on Main Street to capacity, by letting the space breathe and with the assistance of some old sea chanteys and whaling songs, visitors to his temporary gallery will have no problem imagining the Sag Harbor of old.
For the space’s first exhibit, Marder wanted to pay homage to his new locale and enlisted a number of artists, some local, some not, to create works related to the sea. He could have gone overboard, hanging buoys and fish net and giant harpoons, but instead chose only to provide a little background music. The result is an exhibit that is equally respectful of the art, the space and this village.
“I’ve been here for a while and I’m still finding new things,” said Marder about the building from 1843. “There is just so much detail.”
He’s calling the space the “Temporary Silas Marder Gallery” because, well, he’s not sure how long he’ll be there. His lease is up in October and from there he’ll go “month to month.” But for the time being Marder has embraced the three rooms that make up the 2,500 square foot basement with their cement and stone walls and bricked archways.
And Marder knows a little something about unique spaces. His main gallery, located in Bridgehampton behind his parents’ landscaping business, is a gigantic barn.
With the new space he saw a lot of opportunities that don’t exist in the barn, mainly the smallness and the intimacy. It also allows Marder to have a project space, something that’s missing in Bridgehampton.
The back room currently holds a single piece by Cynthia Knott entitled “At the Horizon I and II” consisting of two enormous canvases suspended in mid-air by a series of C-clamps and cables. One canvas represents the sea and the other the sky and they’re arranged in a way that allows you to walk inside them and become engulfed.
But Marder hopes the two spaces also work together. He’s currently planning an architecture and space exhibit that he plans to open in his main gallery one weekend and then continue in the temporary gallery the next to create a continuation of a body of work. “One of the advantages of having the two spaces,” he said, “is having a dialogue between them.”
The new space is also allowing Marder to experience what a Main Street gallery feels like, something he’s been thinking about for a while.
“We’ve been playing around with the idea of a temporary location for the last couple of years and thought it would be a great way to try out a Main Street space – to see if it suits us and see what it does for the artwork.”
He said he’s certainly enjoyed being in Sag Harbor over the last two months.
“In Bridgehampton, we’re sort of a destination space. People are coming to find us there,” said Marder. “Here we’re getting all sorts of different backgrounds and different people coming through the door and different reactions to the art work and it definitely gives the installation a different type of energy.”
The energy of the new space is central to the current exhibit it holds, which consists of 13 works by six different artists. While Knott’s piece is by far the largest, the other pieces are just as exquisite. Oliver Peterson’s collage serves as a nostalgic ode to a forgotten maritime and Stephanie Stein’s tiny watercolor ships on paper are gentle reminders of the ocean’s vastness. And some pieces like Raymond Pettibon’s lithograph of a giant wave are, in Marder’s words,  “a little dark and sinister.” Overall, the space and the exhibit compliment each other perfectly.
“There’s a delicate balance,” said Marder.  “The space could dominate, but at the same time you want to give the artwork a place as well. You don’t want one to overwhelm the other.”

Photo: Cynthia Knott’s “At the Horizon I and II” hanging in the back room at the Temporary Silas Marder Gallery – photo by Danny Gonzales