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On View in East Hampton: FAPE Fills American Embassies with Art

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"View Points" by William Wegman, with his dog Penny, 2005.

“View Points” by William Wegman, with his dog Penny, 2005. Part of the FAPE collection now on view at Guild Hall.

By Tessa Raebeck

Art needs no language to be understood; it communicates without spoken word.

This is the idea behind FAPE, the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, which aims to promote unity and open communication across cultures and countries by putting artwork in United States embassies across the world.

Honoring the long connection between American artists and the East End, the first comprehensive exhibition of FAPE’s collection is opening Saturday, June 28, at Guild Hall in East Hampton. It will be on view through July 27.

FAPE started in 1989 with Frank Stella’s donation of enough prints of “The Symphony” to be sent to every American embassy. It has grown to include the work of noted artists such as Chuck Close, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg.

“For the first time, the public will have the rare opportunity to view works commissioned by and donated to FAPE by some of this country’s most iconic artists in a concentrated setting,” said FAPE Chairman Jo Carole Lauder in a press release. “We celebrate these artists’ generosity and the places they hold in the history of American art.”

“Jo Carole Lauder asked me if I wanted to do something and of course I said yes, because it’s a really good thing,” said William Wegman, a FAPE artist known for his books and photos of his pet Weimaraners, the tall and thin gray dogs that were originally bred and used by royalty for hunting. “Also, Jo Carole is a really good supporter of the arts and anything she recommends tends to be worthwhile.”

Mr. Wegman is currently focusing on geometric shapes and sculpture in his photos.

“One of my dogs, Topper, is such a magnificent piece of sculpture and he likes being on top of things,” he explained. “So, I’m accommodating him—I usually do change according to the dogs.”

The first dog he photographed was Man Ray, who became so popular the Village Voice named him “Man of the Year” in 1982. Since then, he’s photographed Fay, her daughter Batty who “was very narcoleptic and could care less,” and an assortment of other Weimaraner personalities.

Batty, he said, “was willing to do anything, but had this sort of whatever attitude, was very comic where Fay was kind of scary and serious.”

“So, when I was casting my first children’s book, Fay became both the Fairy Godmother and the Evil Stepmother and Batty became Cinderella,” he added.

Fay’s firstborn son, Chundo, resembled a prince, but could also be a wolf, as in Mr. Wegman’s well-known 1993 book, “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Chundo, said the artist, was “named after the biggest person I ever met in the south of Chile on a trip I made back in the ’80s.”

After that came Chip, Batty’s son, who was “incredibly handsome and kind of sad looking, so in a lot of my books he became this kind of wistful boyish figure that things happen to.”

Chip’s son Bobbin was “much more scary looking and looked really quite evil, even though he wasn’t. He just had a very severe, humorless face.”

One of Mr. Wegman’s current dogs, Penny, who is featured in the FAPE exhibition, was on the cover of National Geographic. He was asked to create a photo to accompany a February 2012 article on the dog genome.

Penny, who wore dozens of wigs and costumes for the photo shoot, was his best worker, “probably the only dog I never once had to reprimand,” he said.

“She was really remarkable, very still and had this sort of inner quiet to her,” added Mr. Wegman. “Unless there was a thunderstorm and then she disappeared.”

Throughout the exhibition, Guild Hall is hosting panels with the artists, curators and FAPE personnel. Guest Curator Robert Starr, chairman of FAPE’s Professional Fine Arts Committee and dean of the Yale School of Art, is moderating the opening panel on Saturday, June 28, from 3 to 4 p.m.

Panelists include artists Tina Barney, Lynda Benglis, Mr. Close, Joel Shapiro and Carrie Mae Weems. Two additional panels will be held Sunday, July 20, and Sunday, July 27, at 11 a.m.

Lynda Benglis. Untitled (Half Sphere). 2007. Cast bronze. 37.5 x 36 x 17.5 in. Part of the FAPE collection on view at Guild Hall.

Lynda Benglis. Untitled (Half Sphere). 2007. Cast bronze. 37.5 x 36 x 17.5 in. Part of the FAPE collection on view at Guild Hall.

Ms. Benglis first made waves when she burst onto the art scene in the ‘70s. In an ad for Artforum in 1974, she posed naked with a giant fake penis, aiming to mock both artists and feminists who take themselves too seriously, as well as the idea of sexuality. Needless to say, it caused some backlash.

Today, Ms. Benglis splits her time between several art studios from India to New Mexico, working on different projects at each and returning to her home in East Hampton for grounding.

“This is my thinking place and my home,” she said Friday, sitting with her dachshund Pi surrounded by a green jungle of trees on her back deck in the Northwest Woods.

“Their mission,” she said of FAPE, “is to get arts into the public sphere—particularly for peaceful means—to encourage a kind of communication with other countries and embassies and make things more relaxed.”

“We’re a small world now and art is nonviolent, nonpolitical,” she said, adding, “The art’s really about communication and that’s why we have an embassy project, that’s why we have FAPE.”

The opening reception of FAPE’s exhibition is Saturday, June 28, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Guild Hall, located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call (631) 324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.

Escaping to Video

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"Female Sensibility," a 14 minute film by Lynda Benglis.

"Female Sensibility," a 14 minute film by Lynda Benglis.


By Emily J Weitz


Long Island, and in particular the East End, has a history as a place of escape. Whether it was the Fitzgeralds summering on the North Shore or Jackson Pollock seeking solitude in the Springs in East Hampton, this spit of land has long carried people from the bustling city to the endless expanse of ocean and sound. This is the theme of the first-ever all video exhibition on Long Island, which will open at Guild Hall this weekend.

“We chose the theme of escape,” says Lauren Cornell, guest curator of this exhibition and Executive Director of Rhizome and Adjunct Curator at the New Museum, “because we thought it was a theme that relates to so much art. We use Long Island as a jumping-off point because people go there to vacation and get away.”

The “escape” is manifold. It’s about escaping to Long Island, about escaping into art, and about escape into technology, video, mindlessness. Among the ten artists whose work will be on display, the idea of escape manifests itself in markedly different ways.

“Jonathan Horowitz’s piece deals with addiction,” explains Cornell. “It’s a cigarette held up against a wall, perpendicularly mounted, slowly burning. It appears as if it’s getting sucked from the other end of the wall.”

Others seem like much healthier escapes, like the work of William Wegman.

“It’s about his relationship with his dog,” says Cornell, “and about how we take a break from being human through our pets.”

A work by Joan Jonas, a pioneer in the video art movement of the 70s as well as a loud and clear voice during the rise of feminism, depicts a group of artists performing different ritualized actions on the beach.

“Jonas played a significant role in the development of video art,” says Cornell, “and that’s why we included her.”

Another piece, by longtime Long Islander Keith Sonnier, is an installation piece with four different TVs all playing at once. It’s called “Channel Mix” and features two split projections with four input cables and antenna TV.

“It’s about how we escape by numbing our minds through TV,” says Cornell. “That was originally from 1972, and I think it anticipates how we interact with our medium now.”

Laurie Anderson is another major figure in the development of video art, and she worked directly with Cornell and co-curator Hanne Mugaas to prepare her work for exhibition.

“Anderson is an amazing artist,” says Cornell. “She’s pioneered many different mediums, and her work [is so relevant it] could be made today. The video is part of a larger piece… it’s not so much about technology in the medium, but about the artwork itself.”

Her piece, “At The Shrinks,” takes place in a therapist’s office and addresses the idea of a psychological retreat or escape. It’s a video with an audio loop projected onto clay figures, and was created originally in 1975.

While the pieces were selected around the idea of “escape,” it was also essential that the artists had some connection to Long Island.

“This led us back to the 70s and 80s,” says Cornell, “when there were more artists working on Long Island.”

Warhol, not only a pivotal figure in art history but also a devoted Montauk resident, has a piece in the exhibit.

“It was one of the only videos Warhol ever shot,” says Cornell. “It’s a long, durational shot of a water cooler, a commentary on an in-office escape.”

As she pulled together the works for this exhibit, Cornell found it to be an almost archival endeavor. Video art, which used to be so modern and cutting-edge, isn’t new anymore. Some of the technology has even become so outdated that it’s challenging to find a way to present it.

“VHS players are hard to find,” says Cornell. “Getting antennas into the gallery is challenging because everyone has digital cable now. In that way this is an archival exhibit.”

As she flipped through the history of video art and the relics of the 70s and 80s, Cornell found that Long Island had a prominent role in the movement.

“It’s been really interesting to research Long Island’s role in contemporary art,” she says. “Working with all these pioneering and important artists [who are tied to Long Island] has been really exciting.”