Gallery Shows at Sylvester and Pamela Williams


Over the past few years, as East Hampton seems to have, in some respects, transformed itself into a leafier yet still offensively vulgar version of Fifth Avenue, Amagansett has also evolved, slowly emerging as a new focus for art and artists on the East End.

Featuring artwork as a ubiquitous element of its identity in spaces as disparate as restaurants, real estate offices, and gift shops, as well as more traditional exhibition spaces such as the Pamela Williams Gallery, Amagansett also boasts art at Sylvester and Company, where the paintings compete with high-end furnishings for both aesthetic and commercial attention.

While there are purists within the creative community who might still scoff at this type of melding of commerce and art—especially among those who would prefer to divorce the aesthetic relationships between what we put on our floors and what we hang on our walls—this has become today a rather outdated argument.

If nothing else, if it is now acceptable for museums to present exhibits by fashion designers and motorcycle manufacturers, then it’s only fair for other venues, including all types of stores and businesses, to become outlets for legitimate artists.

Having said that, I will allow that if someone decides to have an exhibition at Jennifer Convertibles, the majortiy of art world observers would likely consider this stepping over the line.

At Sylvester and Company, Dennis Lawrence’s new works offer an interesting complementary tone to the rustically restrained elegance of the space itself. In the past, his work has highlighted elemental geometric forms in a nod to both the Bauhaus and the color field painters of the 1960s; in his recent works the emphasis is on a broader, and seemingly more musically derived, approach to color and image.

This is accomplished through a process of painterly slashes of color that dominate the surface of the works but never completely obliterate the layers of color and calligraphic lines that occupy the background layers. The result is a gentle and subtle amalgamation of the planar dimensions that creates soft tempos, allowing the linear components to dart in and out of the surface of the works and conjuring melodies that alternate between being brassily insistent and mysteriously evasive.

Throughout the exhibition, in works such as “Flicker” and “Criss Cross” (both oil on canvas), Mr. Lawrence establishes linear and calligraphic rhythms deep within the paintings that are muted, but never obscured, by the imposition of colors and paint strokes that occupy the surface planes.

Essentially reflecting a surprising relationship between lyrical abstraction and abstract expressionism, Mr. Lawrence has, in these paintings, created works that establish what is an undeniably melodic presence, illustrating the concert violinist Yehudi Menuhin’s observation that “rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous.”

The exhibition of the paintings of Dennis Lawrence continues at Sylvester and Company in Amagansett through the month of June.

Meanwhile, directly across the street at the Pamela Williams Gallery are recent works, most of which have the East End as the subject, by photographer Ken Robbins. These are works that are distinctly more painterly in their use of Photoshop manipulations than those I’ve seen in the past.

This painterly effect is particularly apparent in works such as “Pussy’s Creek,” in which Mr. Robbins has created an image that, upon close examination, seems almost more painting than photograph. His transformation of the lush foliage into painterly reveries where the pixels that make up the image appear as individual slashes of color reminds one of George Seurat and the Pointillists, who scientifically balanced the sometimes contradictory aspects of color, line, and tone.

In other works, such as “Dredging the Moon,” Mr. Robbins’s surface manipulations of the image almost completely erase its photographic origins and are more reminiscent of illustrations than the product of a camera.

This is also true in a series of pictures of flowers, each of which appears more like an illustration from an elegant old English garden manual or the understated centerpiece from one of the artist Dan Rizzie’s recent paintings.

What gives the works a further measure of impact, though, are the other elements, such as the full moon or a bird flying by in the distance, that impart an atmosphere of gentle surrealism as well as a greater sense of scale to the photographs themselves.

The exhibition of recent photographs by Ken Robbins continues at the Pamela Williams Gallery in Amagansett through May 18.

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