Focus on Elaine Grove’s “Sound Weighs”

Lisa N. Peters

Elaine Grove - Sound Weighs, 2010

Elaine Grove, "Sound Weighs," 2010, steel, brass, and enamel, 31 x 19 x 19 inches

In Fifteen Contemporary Artists, which now fills our main gallery, the works are vibrant and personal, while their themes echo the art of the past.  Among them, Elaine Grove’s Sound Weighs (2010) seems a cross between the welded steel sculpture of David Smith and the found object art of Marcel Duchamp. In the sculpture, Grove set a fluted “witch’s hat” gramophone (with a Thomas Edison label) on the center of a platform, while a scale is attached at its base.  A bell with a cross-pull–once in a bell collection kept by the artist’s mother-in-law–is on the cover of an old incense burner.

The story emerges in the two barn hinges that look like sentinels, guarding the gramophone towering above them.  Grove admits: “once there was a scale in the piece, I couldn’t help going into a symbolic level.”  She found her Catholic upbringing emerging as well.  The work seems to ask: What is the music that plays from a life in the balance?  How do you measure music and sound waves (note the pun in the work’s title)? What does the spirit weigh? How do we weigh the small moments in life, casual encounters, small mistakes, every kindness? (The scale actually moves.)

Scale relationships are also a factor in the work: the small size of the forms in relation to the gramophone convey a sense of veneration for the inventions of the past, evoking a time of greater innocence (the iconic image on Victor Records of a dog hearing “his master’s voice” in a gramophone once said it all).

Artists of the East End


Artists of the East End

September 8 – October 1, 2011
Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30-5:30

Charlotte Park - Untitled (Red, White, and Green)

Charlotte Park, "Untitled (Red, White, and Green)," oil on paper mounted on canvas, 18 x 24 inches

Spanierman Gallery is pleased to announce the opening on Thursday, September 8, 2011 of Artists of the East End, featuring works created from the mid-twentieth century to the present by artists who have lived and worked on eastern Long Island.  The longest intact artists’ colony in America, the East End of Long Island has been a gathering place for artists since the mid-nineteenth century.  Buoyed by this long history, the area’s sustained appeal is due primarily to two factors: its intense beauty, comprising its distinctive brilliant light and a coastal landscape of extreme variety, and its close connection to the avant-garde art and literary circles of New York City.   Comfortable among like-minded colleagues, artists have always felt free to experiment on the East End, producing a vast array of works, including many of landmark significance.

John Ferren - SKI, 1952

John Ferren, "SKI," 1952, oil on canvas, 47-1/4 x 36 inches

Of the waves of artists who have made their way to eastern Long Island, John Little and John Ferren belong to the circle that formed around Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner in the mid-twentieth century.  Little frequently visited Pollock and Krasner in Springs, East Hampton, before 1948, when he moved next door to them, purchasing Duck Creek Farm, a house and barn.  In the following year, Little was included along with them in the first annual Artists of the Region exhibition at Guild Hall in East Hampton.  A two-man show of the work of Pollock and Little was held at the same venue in 1957.  Painting with bold gestures, Little explored the “inter-vibration” of areas of color, gradually developing a flattening of his paint layers and a use of white to give breathing space to explosive arrangements such as Akiton (1973).  John Ferren, who was close to Picasso, Miró, and John Helion while living in Paris in the early 1930s, evolved an Abstract Expressionist style in the early 1950s, a time when he was an active member of The Club, the intellectual center of the New York School that was led by Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning.  Ski (1952) reflects Ferren’s continued exploration of Eastern philosophy, in which he considered the movement and complexity within simple, subtly shifting colors and varied brush handling.  In 1958 he bought property in Springs, joining the growing community around Pollock.

Betty Parsons - Flying Duck

Betty Parsons, "Flying Duck," 1981, mixed media on wood, 34 x 21 x 1 inches

As an art dealer with a rare perspicacity, Betty Parsons held ground-breaking shows for many avant-garde artists including Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still.  Also a dedicated artist in her own right, Parsons painted and sculpted throughout her life, creating a body of work that is today garnering significant attention.  Parsons began to work on Long Island after receiving an unexpected inheritance in 1959 that enabled her to purchase land on a cliff overlooking the sea in Southold, on the North Fork of the East End. In Southold, she painted as well as created constructions from the wood scraps she found on the beach, combining them into witty structures that evoke anthropomorphic associations.

Charlotte Park is another woman artist from the Abstract Expressionist era whose work is receiving long overdue recognition.  She was married in 1947 to the artist James Brooks and knew Pollock and Krasner from that time forward, renting a New York studio in a space where they had lived and joining them in establishing studios on Long Island, first in Montauk, and then in Springs.  Park launched her own version of Abstract Expressionism in the early 1950s, achieving radiance in works such as an untitled painting from this time in which shapes are inextricably interwound. Rich cursive lines and Park’s favorite crimson-orange palette produce an allover surface that evokes the splendor of a medieval floral tapestry.  Such paintings have prompted critics recently to describe Park’s work as a “revelation” and to praise her as a “great colorist,” while observing her “extremely refined understanding of compositional structure.”

Theodore Stamos - Willow, 1950

Theodore Stamos, "Willow," 1950, oil on masonite, 23-1/2 x 17-7/8 inches

An important member of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, Theodore Stamos was renowned for the passion and originality of his vision.  A firm believer in the role of nature in the creation of a work of art, he sought to capture “the idea of a thing,” making his emotions visible, as in Willow (1950), a reflective image in muted tones that is suggestive of geologic and marine life.  Stamos settled on the North Fork of Long Island in the town of East Marion in about 1951.

A native of St. Petersburg, Florida, David Budd moved in 1954 to New York City. There he studied at the Art Students League and joined fellow artists at the Cedar Street Tavern, including Pollock, Kline, and de Kooning.   Soon thereafter he began to spend summers in East Hampton, where he became an active part of the community of artists on the East End.  Influenced by Pollock in particular, Budd developed a style blending a lyrical sensibility with a powerful gestural handling created through a liberal use of the palette knife.  His approach of the time (before his departure in 1962 for a decade in Europe) is demonstrated in The Creeks (1958), named for the estate of Alfonso Ossorio in East Hampton, which was a popular gathering place for artists in the 1950s.

Dan Christensen, an artist associated with the Color Field movement, had a relentless desire to experiment with tools and pictorial space, as he expanded the limits, range, and possibilities of paint and form through both systematic and spontaneous methods. The noted critic Clement Greenberg wrote in 1990: “Dan Christensen is one of the painters on whom the course of American art depends.”  Inspired initially by the work of Pollock, Christensen was part of a group of young artists who revived painting after a period in which minimalism had prevailed.  His Pale Rumor (1968) demonstrates his early use of the spray paint gun to create shimmering allover surface effects.  Christensen had a long association with the East End, which he began visiting in the mid-1960s.  He was living full-time in Springs with his wife, Elaine Grove, at the time of his death in 2007.

Frank Wimberley - Nile Crest, 1990

Frank Wimberley - "Nile Crest," 1990, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 44 inches

Of the contemporary artists who continue to find contentment on the East End, Frank Wimberley is among the best known.  A resident of New York City and Sag Harbor, he is esteemed by his fellow artists for his masterly abstractions, consisting of unusual manipulations of paint, color, and texture.  Dragging and compressing paint, often using a large spatula to allow underpainting to escape through the surface, Wimberley references Abstract Expressionism’s optical intensity, as in sensuous images such as Nile Crest (1990).  His paintings draw on the improvisational qualities of jazz music and the crystalline waterways of the South Fork.  At the 72nd Annual Artists Members Exhibition at Guild Hall (East Hampton) in 2010, Wimberley was awarded top honors and a future show, which will take place at Guild Hall in 2012.

Carol Hunt relies on color and gesture to produce openly expressive paintings filled with dynamically interactive bold strokes.  Often deriving her inspiration from her surroundings on Long Island’s East End (she lives in Southampton), her images evoke fleeting visual thoughts jotted down for later analysis.  Verbally expressive without specific words, images such as Improvisation 16 (2008) are both self-revelatory and speak to the collective unconscious in their evocation of archetypal forms.

Elaine Grove - Hammer Head, 2011

Elaine Grove - "Hammer Head," 2011, steel and wood, 22 x 20 x 9 inches

Carrying on the tradition of the welded steel constructions of Picasso, David Smith, Julio Gonzales, and Anthony Caro, Elaine Grove creates sculptural “drawings in space” in which metal forms appear animated from within. Residing in Springs, Grove incorporates “found objects” into her work, but her focus is on their shapes and relations in space rather than their original purpose.  Witty resonances and puns reside in her inventive constructions, which are often commentaries on society.

Video: Elaine Grove on Dan Christensen's plaid paintings

In this video clip Elaine Grove and Ira Spanierman discuss Dan Christensen’s Dark Tulip (1970), a painting that was hanging in Dan and Elaine’s loft for many years:
Here is the full video featuring a walk-through of the whole exhibition. We want to thank Elaine again for coming in and talking about her late husband’s work for this video as well as the catalog that accompanied the show. It gives invaluable insight into Christensen’s work and life.