'Vantage Points' Opens Drawing Room Gallery

In East Hampton
“O.T. (Isle of Thanet I: Broadstairs-Eastern Esplanade)” from 2016 is one of Gotz Diergarten’s photographs on view at the Drawing Room.

It is always exciting to see old friends go through a metamorphosis. A radical change can be a chance to notice some forgotten or unseen quality. Maybe a haircut brings out the striking nature of their eyes or a retreat makes them more thoughtful and perceptive.

At the Drawing Room gallery in East Hampton, the change was a move from a storefront space on Newton Lane into a loft-like aerie on Main Street above the Malia Mills store, which Coco Myers has been using all winter for her Folioeast shows.

The gallery has opened with “Vantage Points,” an exhibition of three photographers, looking at both the conceptual and the physical in the work of Adam Bartos, Götz Diergarten, and Michael Light. In the selected photos, each seems to find something previously unseen in the landscape. Even in the bright light of day, they capture diffuse luminescence playing off the vapor present in sea air.

Mr. Bartos and Mr. Light’s photographs are of places on the East End. Mr. Diergarten’s pictures were taken on the Isle of Thanet on the southeast English coast. They use medium and large-format cameras. Mr. Bartos and Mr. Diergarten use tripods. Mr. Light takes his images from above, holding his camera out from a light two-seat plane. The contrast between Mr. Bartos’s very land-based images and Mr. Light’s ethereal bird’s-eye views is dynamic and evocative.

Consciously or not, Mr. Bartos alludes to the workaday life of a South Fork native. In the dirt tracks of a makeshift Bridgehampton farm road, the edge of a cornfield and how it melts into the landscape, a farmer’s tool shed, or a truck at Louse Point, there is a sense of human exertion and labor, not idyllic scenes of urban and urbane leisure. There are no humans in the photos, but traces of them are often evident. The light in his photos is uniform and overcast, with the sense of ever-present haze in them. They can seem somewhat oppressive and brooding, the antithesis of an Instagram moment of perfection.

In “Foster Farms, Sagaponack, Sept 2018,” he has trained his lens on a tool shed, where most things seem to have their place. The Fosters, in placing them so, have given the room and its patterns a layered richness, full of positive and negative space and texture. Even the simple geometry of planes, circles, and quadrilaterals reveals itself in the informal composition of objects.

While Mr. Bartos captures a working-class, Everyman’s South Fork, tied to some of the earliest settlers of the region, Gardiner’s island, at more than 3,300 acres, was the first English settlement in New York. With its own “lord of the manor” beginning with its settlement in 1639 by Lion Gardiner through 2004, it has been a symbol of landed gentry in a democratic country. The title came to an end with the death of Robert David Lion Gardiner, the 16th family member to hold it.

Now in the possession of his niece, Alexandra Goelet, the island has a conservation easement placed on it by agreement with East Hampton Town, which annexed it after the American Revolution, but is still private property. Viewed from land or by sea, a sense of old money and exclusivity radiates off the site. From the air, it magically transforms to more egalitarian vistas of old forest and open meadows, something Mr. Light obviously appreciates along with the more abstract patterning that emerges in some images.

In his photographs, the skies might be overcast, but the water and landscape are richly blue and green. His own interest in Gardiner’s Island stems from youthful jaunts there to hunt and fish, and the personal connection to these subjects is palpable. The images were shot not merely from above but at an angle, from sometimes as low as 500 feet, making the landscape more legible and approachable. 

There is a primeval, Eden-like quality to the pristine richness of the forest and fields, which the sky seems to bathe in a sublime glow. The star of this group is “Cartwright Shoal,” an image he seems to have drawn using his camera. The horizonless overview of a long and mostly submerged sand spit looks more like a chalk-and-pastel than a digital pigment print.

Mr. Diergarten’s focus in these images is on 19th and 20th-century bus shelters in a seaside town. A 1990s student of Bernd Becher, the Dusseldorf-based photographer who used serial images to capture German architecture as it was disappearing from the landscape, Mr. Diergarten has employed a similar approach in his work, isolating types of architecture for closer examination and display. 

Working first only in black and white, he began using color in 2003 while focused on “banal public spaces for subject matter,” according to the gallery. In these public shelters, Mr. Diergarten found unique architectural expression in their form. His work highlights these structures using an overcast haze as illumination and background, and a central position in the frame to enhance and even ennoble them in a way. This causes us to consider them as we might something grander, like an ancient ruin or a showier architectural landmark, not in an imposing way, but one more thoughtful. 

Something about being on an upper floor enlivens these works, makes them seem loftier still, and underlines their meditative qualities. It is an auspicious beginning for what we can only hope is a long and successful residency in this space.

The exhibition will remain on view through Memorial Day.

Adam Bartos’s “Foster Farms, Sagaponack, Sept 2018” is a study in geometric forms as well as a glimpse into the life of a working farm on the South Fork. Drawing Room
"Looking South Across Gardiner's Island," a 2016 archival pigment print by Michael LightDrawing Room