Why We Like Winter

A memorable visual experience
Charles Yver. Jenny Gorman Photos

This year’s Winter Salon at the Drawing Room gallery in East Hampton once again defies expectation and reminds us that installing an art exhibition is an art in itself. The directors’ great eyes for artists and visual relationships add up to a memorable visual experience — a collective POW!

The show runs throughout both the upstairs and downstairs rooms. Although last year’s salon may have hinted at creative fatigue by the time the downstairs was installed, there is no such lag in attention and focus this time. The number of artists attests to the gallery’s strong stable but does not include everyone, which strengthens and solidifies the overall experience.

Here the gallery does what it does best, bringing startlingly high-quality historic drawings in pristine condition out of the archives to play with more contemporary work. That this multimedia show encompasses photographs, paintings, pastels, watercolors, ink, gouache, and sculpture attests to the tightrope that the curators, Victoria Munroe and Emily Goldstein, balance precariously on, but they never falter. 

The show defies the canard that less is more‚ and its inverse, more is more‚ simultaneously. The rooms are crowded but not stuffy, and artists are given a few chances to offer a say in the mix of styles, genres, and subject matter. 

Would a whole wall or room of Jennifer Bartlett be preferable to seeing how her work on paper interacts with the eclectic mix of Raja Ram Sharma, Sue Heatley, Sharon Horvath, and Charles Yver? Yes and no. M. Yver’s “Poissons,” with their tropical, high-toned hues, are one of the delights of the show. Painted in 1941, they appear as if they were done en plein eau, with dense populations of active fish and pretty undersea flora. There is something immediate and stunning about them, and they bring light and energy to everything, including Ms. Heatley’s linocut monoprint and Mr. Sharma’s colorful but static Asian landscapes.

A whole wall — albeit a short one — of Jack Youngerman’s black, blue, and yellow works on paper are another startling surprise. Painted in gouache in 1952, the patterns are both midcentury hep and chicly au courant. With Antonio Asis’s geometric constructions nearby, along with Vincent Longo’s unusual woodcuts and etchings and the fresh graphic punch of French textile design drawings from the 1930s, the back room looks like a scene from “Mad Men” is about to take place.

Along its other broad wall, the upstairs front gallery has a lovely and dynamic story to tell about flora. It begins with Alice Aycock’s machine-plant hybrids, done in watercolor and inkjet printing; flows into a handful of engraved French botanical studies, pauses to encompass Laurie Lambrecht’s multi-phasic exploration of cyanotypes, gathers up four sheets of 19th-century French pressed botanical specimens, and comes to a halt with Robert Jakob’s lovely “Garden Notes, Chicory Flower, Chicorium Endivia,” an acrylic and crayon drawing on paper full of fluid grace.

On the smaller walls in the front room, the orb-like forms of Bryan Hunt’s metallic resin cast and multimedia work on canvas play nice with a Dan Rizzie multi-spheric lithograph and pieces from Ms. Horvath’s “Bubble Up” series in ink, pigment, and polymer on paper. They face a series of bird and habitat studies by Antonia Munroe, another Rizzie litho, and some concepts for a 1910 French design house project.

In the large room downstairs, the walls are dominated by architectural themes. Drawings in ink and pencil with neoclassical themes focus on antique column orders and dome cross sections. They mix with Jean Pagliuso’s painterly photographic images of Egyptian pyramids on Japanese mulberry paper, and Adam Bartos’s richly observed image of an Indian villa, as well as multiple works in Mr. Sharma’s signature technique, using hand-ground pigments with gum arabic on paper. His pieces add a shot of color in an otherwise neutral environment, and his regimented, geometrical studies have a touch of whimsy in their bird’s-eye views. Mary Ellen Bartley’s blue series of photographic book studies adds an interesting element of color and structure to the mix.

Anyone who missed or is missing the gallery’s recent exhibition of Robert Dash, Jane Freilicher, Fairfield Porter, and Jane Wilson can see a reprise in the last room. Many of the works have migrated here for the winter. They are set off by French landscape drawings, a Costantino Nivola clay sculpture that looks like sand, and a beautiful pastel drawing, “Nevis, January #1,” by Jennifer Bartlett. It’s a mostly sunny reminder of months past and to come, and of the deep void left by those singular artists who have recently left us.

  It would be possible to go on, but for the sake of brevity and discovery, it is best to leave it at that. The exhibition has plenty of other gems by the artists mentioned, as well as from John Alexander, Stephen Antonakos, Donald Sultan, and Alexis Rockman. It will be on view through Jan. 31.

Antonia Munroe, left, Theodore Olivier, right.
French wallpaper designs, left, Sue Heatley, right.
Jennifer Bartlett’s “Nevis, January #1,” a pastel from 2008, is mixed in with works from the gallery’s last show featuring Robert Dash, Jane Freilicher, Fairfield Porter, and Jane Wilson. Gary Mamay