Society is ready to reveal artists’ secrets once more

Publication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press
Society is ready to reveal artists’ secrets once more
By Pat Rogers

What happens when a secret is too compelling to keep? For the Artist Secret Society, it means a group art show is about to be unveiled.

Breaking the self-imposed silence they resumed after last year’s show, the members of the Secret Society have gathered a group of nearly 25 artists for their second annual Guerilla Exhibition, opening at Christy’s Art Center in Sag Harbor on Wednesday, August 12, and continuing through Tuesday, August 18.

An opening reception featuring a live band and entertainment will be held on Saturday, August 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. Visitors shouldn’t be surprised if they’re greeted by a persuasive “gorilla” roaming in front of the brick building where Main Street meets Madison. Once inside, they just might encounter a belly dancer in the coils of a snake moving to live blues music.

The exhibition, “Between Heaven and Hell,” features artwork that explores the three major metaphysical divisions in the epic poem, “The Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). The show is separated into themes of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.

The show is curated by Catamount Mayhugh, who was also the curator for last year’s inaugural Guerilla Show held at a vacant photo store in East Hampton. Last year’s show featured pieces by eight artists who presented either figurative or abstract work.

This year’s theme of mysticism is in keeping with Mr. Mayhugh’s charge to create a unique exhibition, and it was also a natural fit for the historic Christy’s Art Center and its three distinct spaces, the curator said. The range of the artists gathered is as sprawling as the display space for this year’s show.

Exhibiting artists include Damien Hirst, Dan Rizzie, Steve Miller, Randy Rosenthal, Bettina Werner (the “Queen of Salt”), David Geiser and Darius Yektai. Also showing are Jameson Ellis, Oliver Peterson, Benjamin McHugh, Melora Griffis, Paul Ickovic, Lola Schnabel, Norman Brosterman, among others. Artist Secret Society founders David Gamble and Eric Ernst will also have work in the show.

Besides selecting pieces that fall outside the norms of what is typically exhibited on the East End, Mr. Mayhugh chose much of the artwork for its commentary on the extremes of good and evil. In some cases, similar works could find their places in both Heaven and Hell, he added.

“Randy Rosenthal has carved sculptures of money,” the curator said. “I’m hoping to get two of them so they can go in Heaven and Hell. The point is that it’s not the object but the intent of the person. The exhibition has a lot of layers to it. How many of those layers people want to see is up to them.”

The underground artists’ group was launched several years ago by Mr. Gamble of East Hampton and Mr. Ernst of Sag Harbor. The two men founded the internet-based group in response to commercial gallery expectations that exhibiting artists consistently demonstrate a signature style in their artwork.

“Artists like to work in different mediums and work in different styles,” Mr. Gamble said. “They choose the material and the subject according to the best way to express what they want to say creatively. Galleries don’t always like to show work that’s outside of what they typically show for that artist or work that differs from the gallery’s aesthetic style.”

Selecting alternative venues for each show is important for the group’s founders. So is the requirement that Secret Society shows be curated by artists. When artists pick the work, considerations of artistic expression and execution trump practical matters weighed by galleries, such as how a piece relates to an artist’s oeuvre and whether or not a piece will sell, or resonate with art collectors.

In the Sag Harbor show, there is work that is not for sale but speaks to developing the theme or deserves to be seen, Mr. Gamble said. This includes the Damien Hirst rocket maquette and a building model made by architect Russell Blue.

Selecting themes and artwork that aren’t typical in the exhibiting area is another crucial part of the mix. So far, shows have been held in East Hampton and Sag Harbor. Future opportunities may present themselves in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, the two men said, and like those offered on the East End, those shows would be designed to shake things up a bit.

 

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