July 26, 2006

In The Gallery

Prudential Real Estate

216 Main Street, Amagansett

Artists of the Hamptons

By involving itself in the business of art, Prudential Real Estate is proving that there's art in (doing) business. Located in the 1887 green-shingled Charles Canfield House on Main Street in Amagansett, Prudential entered the art gallery scene this summer, joining forces with Andrea McCafferty (Crazy Monkey Gallery) and Teri Kennedy.

Under the auspices of Office Manager Richard Maio, Prudential has turned its agents' rooms into an attractive exhibition place for paintings and sculpture. Flanked by summer flowers, a red brick path leads to the porch of the historic house, built by G.H. Barnes, and then visitors step into a large, bright and airy space that has been divided into 18 offices, each containing artwork.

The site, formerly inhabited by Ann Harper and then by the Dragon Gallery, has been totally remodeled, including the installation of a long ceiling rail for the paintings and a wall projection here and there for sculpture, represented in this second show of the season by Maria Pessino's charming fabric-and glass whimsy, The Attic. Clearly, what Andrea McCafferty sees as a "more creative space" and Richard Maio as a "great chance to bring together potential clients and buyers of art," has already extended opportunity for some local artists (not to mention leads for Prudential).

Abby Abrams' two large, luminescent watercolors, Acabonac Dyptich, for example, with their sweeping shorelines, finally get the expanse they deserve. They form a pleasing contrast with Elaine Grove's nicely composed set of six oil-on-wood landscapes, Louse Point Journal, that share Prudential's front window room.

"Artists of the Hamptons" is an admirable group show, various and in some cases surprising. Some works announce themselves immediately because of their medium, subject matter or technique, such as Gabriele Raacke's distinctive dark green and blue tone acrylic-on-glass expressionistic circus figures, and Liz Gribin's limited-edition print Sorrow — its outlined dark figure slumped in shadows of purple and black and set against geometric panes of lighter hue, the whole showing off Gribin's elegant use of acrylic and charcoal, are an instant testimony to her classical training and superb color sense.

Others artists are represented by both signature and unexpected work. Marilyn Church's In Her Room, from her dramatic black and red demimonde series, shares a wall with the wonderfully composed, cooler, more abstract By the Sea. Leo Revi's Halsey Farm, Watermill seems vintage Revi, with its distinctive shimmering colors and focus on trucks and barns, but Beach Picnic, cleverly positioned in another Prudential area, startled opening-day viewers with its freer brushwork and joyous mass of figures.

Rosalind Brenner, recently seen in floral watercolors and compressed colorful abstracts, is seen here with Mother and Child, a large, a mixed media semi-abstract of sleeping figures nicely integrated into a decorative background, the whole effectively complemented by an attractive frame design.

Barbara Groot's Waterhole #14, an acrylic on canvas abstract, understandably attracts attention for its unusual colors — light blue, greens, yellow-grays and absolutely right flashes of oranges and dark greens — and for its satisfying mix of thin paint lines and free form masses. Ursula Thomas's Japanese ink on paper Long Life astonishes as well, with its confident minimalist brushwork wonderfully evocative of bamboo trees and leg bones.

Camille Perrottet's large canvas Radiant Gift, a mixed-media abstract whose colors mutate gradually according to applications of sand, also attracted a lot of opening-day attention, as did Scott Hewitt's Animal Crackers, a slightly ominous, smoothly painted oil of a large open box of cookies. Set against a black background and lit by artificial light that casts a black shadow, the box, painted in off-angled perspective, starkly contrasts with a scattering of blurred carcass cookies below.

Other works on exhibit include Berenice D'Vorzon's Bali Heat, a lovely watercolor on paper that reaffirms her reputation as a colorist; Frances Alenikoff 's mixed-media dyad — two large faces set against playful, bold-colored fanciful city scenes; Bobbie Braun's Long View oil on canvas; and Michele Margit's Lazy Point.

Clearly, Prudential Real Estate has made a fine entry as an East End gallery. The exhibit runs through August 6.

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