Two new exhibitions are premiering at the Heckscher Museum of Art. Though different in style, both have important connections to Long Island and are intrinsically linked to the extra-ordinary lives of the artists.
Wood Gaylor captures the over-the-top parties and art balls that were part of his artistic social circle, while Connie Fox’s dynamic abstractions capture her favorite Long island beach.
The exhibitions also mark some important “firsts.” This is the first scholarly museum show for Wood Gaylor spotlighting his artistic contributions to American Modernism. For Connie Fox, this is the most comprehensive presentation of her Sammy’s Beach series on Long Island.
Wood Gaylor and American Modernism
Scenes of festive revelers, clowns and performers — and his fellow artists – are the signature subject matter of Wood Gaylor’s raucous paintings. Wood Gaylor and American Modernism includes two dozen artworks by Gaylor, interspersed with paintings, sculptures, and drawings from The Heckscher Museum’s collection by artists in Gaylor’s social and artistic circles
In 1916, Gaylor (1883-1957) joined Walt Kuhn and other prominent modern artists in New York City to form The Penguin group. The irreverent association put on exhibitions, held weekly sketching sessions with nude models, and mounted fantastic Arts Balls, complete with costumes, comical skits, musicians, and papier-mâché props. Gaylor captured these spirited events in paintings featuring brightly-colored, flat, outlined figures in grand spaces.
Throughout the 1920s, Gaylor spent summers in Ogunquit, Maine, where he and other artists became some of the first collectors of American folk art. The flattening and distortion in early American painting provided affirmation for Gaylor’s faux-naïve style. Gaylor continued to organize and depict grand events of the New York art world throughout the 1920s and into the mid-1930s when he and his family relocated to Glenwood Landing on Long Island.
“The Heckscher Museum’s strength in modern American art makes it fitting that we take part in bringing the first scholarly museum exhibition of Gaylor’s work to our audiences,” said Karli Wurzelbacher, curator. “Our collection of artworks by Gaylor’s peers, many of whom are portrayed in his paintings, enriches our presentation of the show. I’m excited to spend the next few months with these vibrant, joyful, social scenes on view in our galleries.”
Wood Gaylor and American Modernism includes paintings from the Smith College Museum of Art, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition is interspersed with works from The Heckscher Museum’s Permanent Collection of artists that were part of Gaylor’s circle.
This exhibition is organized by the Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont. The Heckscher Museum of Art is grateful to Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts, LLC for the generous support of this exhibition and the accompanying catalog.
Connie Fox: The Sammy’s Beach Series
January 16 to April 11
The Heckscher Museum’s exhibition Connie Fox: The Sammy’s Beach Series is the first comprehensive presentation of this exciting body of work to take place on Long Island. The exhibition brings together a dozen abstract paintings and a group of related drawings in charcoal, ink, and acrylic on paper that Fox created in response to Sammy’s Beach.
Fox began visiting the tidal bay beach, located between Gardiner’s Bay and Three Mile Harbor in the town of East Hampton, soon after moving to Long Island in the late 1970s. Over a period of thirty years, she walked, sat and swam at the beach. Created between 2007 and 2014, the series is a remarkable recent achievement by an artist whose work spans seven decades.
Connie Fox: The Sammy’s Beach Series explores the connection between Fox’s abstractions and her experiences of the beach, and considers the shifting vocabulary of shapes, lines, colors, and textures that unites the varied series. Fox explains that the paintings are an homage to Sammy’s Beach, not representational landscapes.
“The challenging compositions, robust paint handling, and sheer size of the works in the Sammy’s Beach series thrill me. It is fascinating to consider how Fox’s lived and remembered experiences of the beach have seeped into her abstractions,” said Karli Wurzelbacher, Curator. “Each canvas is distinct, but commonalities including the presence of the grid and tangles of dense lines carry throughout the series.”
Born in Fowler, Colorado in 1925, Fox earned an M.F.A from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where she met artist Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989). She counted her as a mentor and sometime companion on her visits to Sammy’s Beach. After relocating to East Hampton, Fox married sculptor William King (1925-2015).