The Big Show has become a favorite event for the local community,
generally attracting between 300-500 people. Each year, gallery owner Silas Marder invites over fifty national and international artists to participate, aiming for an eclectic mix of emerging and established talent. Participating artists are given three 8'' x 10” blank canvases, and are offered little direction other than being asked to “reflect on where they are in their careers.”
According to Marder, the event was fashioned after years of attending group openings at Ashawagh Hall in Springs, and coming to understand the importance of a gathering place to the local community. “I wanted to take that energy, raise the bar of the artwork, and exhibit it all in a visually organized way. The biggest challenge to a large-scale group show is in making it cohesive.”
The energetic charge to the show can be attributed to the fact that the work is new work produced virtually simultaneously by artists from different backgrounds, each effected by world events, career demands, and the particular guidelines for this exhibition. Because of all that these canvases share, their differences are more subtle than obvious. Despite sometimes extremely varied content, the works relate. “From painting to painting there’s a dialogue of texture and form,” Marder states. “Even the ones that don’t relate to each other play a part in the overall presentation. Once the installation is completed, the pieces seem to talk to each other. It’s like a lively dinner party where the guests might have conflicting opinions, but they are all expressing themselves very politely at exactly the same volume.”
Another intention of the show is to make connections, not only between artists, but also between communities. “One artist in the show might be from Bridgehampton, but the next artist might be from Italy or Portugal. The visiting artist might not ever have been on Long Island before, so their canvas becomes a sort of ambassador. And even though some artists are not “local,” the local artists—and the local community—are positively affected by their participation and presence.”
“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I grapple with this constantly—the concept of local,” Marder says. “Local is important, but locals need exposure. No one should remain sheltered or underexposed. Exposure comes in different forms: sometimes you go elsewhere; sometimes you invite others to you. The Big Show helps me think about here—what it means to live here, be here, choose to remain here. My job is to connect that “here” with a larger arts community. It’s like drawing concentric circles.”
Because of its diversity, the Big Show attracts collectors and dealers from the East End, Manhattan, and regions beyond. Established collectors are encouraged to try new artists and new collectors are offered an array of original works at accessible prices. “Some people buy all three pieces from a single artist, some buy single pieces on impulse to give different rooms of their house a different character. I have one couple that comes in every year just for portraits to add to their portrait collection. My friends in Sag Harbor have Big Show pieces hanging in quirky little niches in their house. This canvas size is actually a very cool scale for Sag Harbor houses.”
This year’s exhibition will feature works by Mary Heilmann, Robert Olsen, Judith Linhares, Elisa Rossi, as well as William King, Connie Fox, Pamela Collin Focarnio, Erica-Lynn Huberty, Mica I. Marder, Terry Elkins, Jennifer Cross, Cory Barber, Susan Zises and Oliver Peterson. The show will run through September 6, 2010. For more information, contact the gallery at 631/702-2306 or email@example.com.
“It’s exactly the kind of show I’d want to go to,” Marder says. “These are original pieces, they are contemporary pieces, they are diverse in terms of style, and I could actually afford something. The Big Show is in no way a survey of the art world, but it’s definitely a mark.”
Photo credit: Gary Mamay
Top Photo: Installation view of the Silas Marder Gallery
2nd Photo: The Tight Shoe, Liz Gribin; Acrylic on canvas, 2010, 8 x 10 inches
3rd Photo: mile Beautiful, Joshua Petker; Acrylic on canvas, 2010, 8 x 10 inches
See listings for Marders' Friday Night Free Film series on the Haywall –below.