East Hampton: Artist Haven, Then and Now

Alfonso Ossorio at The Creeks

Alfonso Ossorio in the Music Room at The Creeks, 1952. Photograph by Hans Namuth ©1991 Hans Namuth Estate, Courtesy Center for Creative Photography. Featuring paintings by Ossorio, Clyfford Still, and Jean Dubuffet

The artists featured in Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet were in the thick of their careers just as the reputation of East Hampton in Long Island, New York, surged toward its now well-known identity as artist haven. Alfonso Ossorio purchased the 60-acre property “The Creeks” in 1951 at the urging of his friend Jackson Pollock and lived there for most of his creative life. He housed and exhibited Jean Dubuffet’s art brut collection there.

Pollock also resided near East Hampton, in a small homestead in The Springs that is now the Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center. The Center describes the effect of moving to the area on Pollock:

“Before moving to The Springs, his imagery had been congested, his colors somber, and the general mood of his paintings anxious and conflicted. Soon after establishing his studio in the country, however, his colors brightened, his compositions opened up, and his imagery reflected a new responsiveness to nature.”

The region remains an artistic hub, beyond the visual arts. While the 1950s saw a huge creative influx on Long Island with the arrival of artists like Pollock, Ossorio, and Willem de Kooning, the roster of celebrities grew in the ’80s to include stars like Steven Spielberg and Lorne Michaels and in the ’90s to welcome Jennifer Lopez and Jay-Z.

Ossorio’s East Hampton estate, “The Creeks,” and its artistic activity will be the subject of gallery talks next Thursday, April 18, at 6 and 7 pm.

If you are drawn to discover what East Hampton looks like today and explore its potential to influence you artistically, participate in the Hamptons Friends Getaway game for a chance to win the trip for yourself and two friends.

Discovering Ralph Flint, Part I

Ralph Flint, Metropolis, undated. Colored pencil on paper, 12 3/4 x 16 1/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1931.

Currently hung in a small group of New York-themed work on the second floor of the original House, Ralph Flint’s undated drawing Metropolis is nothing if not quietly eye-catching. The pencil marks that make up the abstracted cityscape are brusque and smudgy, lending the elevated view a feeling of out-of-reach frenzy. White highlights add depth to the relatively sparse work on paper, and the whole effect of Flint’s hand is understated and enchanting. As spellbound as I found myself when first viewing it, these visual qualities were not what prompted me to learn more about the piece. Rather, it was the unusual notation on wall text beside the drawing: “death date unknown.” Imprecise birth and death dates are probably not uncommon in exhibitions of ancient art; but as this is a modern piece, I was surprised and highly intrigued by the apparent gap in knowledge about Flint. Furthermore, word among staff was that Metropolis had never previously been on view at the Phillips. Installations Manager Bill Koberg wasn’t able to resolutely confirm this but did tell me that the work was unframed when he decided to put it up. As a fan of puzzles and mystery, I was immediately intent on finding out more. Continue reading

New York State of Mind

Photo: Piper Grosswendt

A fresh suite of artworks quietly debuted earlier this month in a small gallery, on the second floor of the House. As hallmark pieces of the museum’s American art collection shipped off to Tokyo for To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips Collection, and with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in mind, Installations Manager Bill Koberg thought to fill the space with a few choice pieces of New York abstraction from the 1930s-50s.

Gandy Brodie’s undated painting Fragment of a City (1957) anchors the East side of the room, opposite Loren MacIver’s New York (1952). A subtler MacIver, The Window Shade (1948) and Berenice Abbott’s modern consideration of the city as landscape Canyon: Broadway and Exchange Place (1936) hang on the North wall across from Aaron Siskind’s photograph New York 6 (1951) and Ralph Flint’s undated colored pencil drawing Metropolis (undated), acquired by the Collection in 1931. The Flint work brings with it some mystery — unframed prior to its recent hanging, Koberg is uncertain if it’s ever graced the walls of the Phillips. Continue reading