Sunday, June 21, 2015

shed a little

East Hampton Shed

Trudy Benson, Yellow Shade, 2015, oil and acrylic on canvas

Tucked away among a forested stretch off Buckskill Road, East Hampton Shed is changing the way we think about the barns and outbuildings dotting the back forty of homes on the East End. Four years ago, Hadley Vogel and Nate Hitchcock transformed a modest structure behind the Vogel Bindery into a space so crisp and white it's suitable for framing.

East Hampton Shed, behind the Vogel Bindery in East Hampton

More than a lean-to, less than a guest house, the Shed has morphed into a micro-gallery exhibiting some of the most interesting young artists between here and Mexico City. Exhibitions have included Lauren Luloff, Landon MetzBrian KokoskaRebecca Ward, Abigail Vogel and Jean-Baptiste Bernadet, among others. Two Brooklyn-based painters, Trudy Benson and Russell Tyler open the season this year.

Russell Tyler, BBPG, 2014, oil on canvas

The evolution of the Shed goes back a way. While studying at Chicago's Columbia College, Vogel began to adapt a curatorial platform. Drawing on Chicago's do-it-yourself aesthetic, she mounted an apartment gallery, maintaining it for three years. "It was a labor of love," she said, noting that the gallery came long before her knowledge of the art market.

Hitchcock and Vogel eventually teamed up, and their shared affinity for contemporary art led them to Mexico City, drawn there in part by Gerardo Contreras's groundbreaking Preteen Gallery. Since then they've mounted off-site events and exhibitions and participated in art fairs in Miami, New York and Mexico. Hitchcock, also an independent curator, has organized shows at galleries such as Johannes Vogt in New York and LA's Honor Fraser

detail, Benson's Yellow Shade, 2015

Back at the Shed, single works by both artists activate this dynamic space. Benson's work is a layered melange of calligraphy, cutaways and viscous swaths of pigment, with strata of gestures pushing forward and sliding back at the same time. Fast paced and blithely haywire, Yellow Shade is a meditation on destabilization. 

While the pictorial field is filled with spatial ruptures, formally the painting thrives on compositional rejoinders like background, foreground and middle ground -- its cacophony yielding to formal balance. 

Benson's strategy is frisky, skillful and tight. She lays down a ground of sprightly lines, creating a hazy playground of airbrushed doodles that pop in an out of focus. 

Mid-ground, abstract shapes function like architectural gateways that both anchor the image field and act as a window into the painting. 

In the foreground, contours of extruded pigment fly over the surface, marking the field like Nazca lines. The effect is radiant and dizzying.

Trudy Benson 

Russell Tyler and friend

On an adjacent wall, Russell Tyler's painting BBPG is ravenous, imbued with an explosive painterly finesse. In his rigorous studio practice Tyler has moved nimbly from the figurative to geometric abstraction, continuing outward from there, always with a long interpretive glance.

Known for paintings that possess a raw structural precision and evocations of obsolete technology, vintage computer graphics and video games, his abstractions convey a deep sense of nostalgia. 

Russell Tyler, BBPG, 2015, acrylic and oil on canvas

Tyler's appreciation of mid-century American abstraction is also nostalgic, and it taps into Reinhardt, Hoffman and Still with a distance that is reductive, refreshing and free of post-modern angst. In figural works he has referenced Goya, and here, BBPG is a tour de force homage to Phillip Guston, abstract expressionism and the New York school. 

His material sensibility is one of such viscidity and so much depth that the paintings veer toward the sculptural, possessing a powerful physical presence.

With a palette that's more Dow Chemical than, say, Per Kirkeby's naturalist, feel-good coloration, Tyler's synthetic colors source the likes of TV screens, patio furniture or plastic refuse. Not unlike Guston, his exploration of color gradients is often limited in tone and hue. 

In BBPG, Pepto-Bismol pinks rub shoulders with blacks and a range of baby blues, cobalt and Payne's gray. The effect is stunning, with blues and grays commingling dead center in a collision of slurpy clouds, painterly schisms and muscular, effusive marks. Tyler is a painter's painter.

Watch for the next iteration at the East Hampton Shed -- it's sure to be memorable.