Art museum

works of East End artists joined by geography, theme at the Parrish Art Museum


Days before an exhibition of her minimalist paintings opened at the Parrish Art Museum, Virginia Jaramillo, 82, was asked what it was like to have had to wait until now to be in the spotlight.

“Wait? I wasn’t waiting,” she said. “I was working.”

“The harmony between line and space”, comprising five of her most recent paintings, is only the second museum exhibition of Jaramillo’s work in the more than six decades she has devoted to painting. artistic creation. With Outer Space-inspired abstractions by John Torreano and new pieces from video art pioneer Peter Campus, this is one of three solo exhibitions currently on display at the East End featuring local talents at the height of long careers.

“Although the three artists are very different, they make us all aware,” Alicia Longwell, chief curator of the museum, said of the low-key works of the octogenarians. “They want us to really pay attention.”

That grand ambition recently had Jaramillo climb to the top of a ladder while working on one of his oversized compositions in the spacious studio attached to his two-level Hampton Bays home.

“Sometimes they just didn’t stick,” she said of the circuit boards that describe “They Spoke Without Speaking,” the veteran artist’s very first assembly. The perch made it easier, Jaramillo said, to visualize the geometric composition built on panels, which she laid flat on two sawhorses to adhere the computer components.

“Our whole life has become an interaction with technology,” she said, explaining her choice of unusual medium. “So-and-so posted that they had a banana split for lunch. No one bother to have in-depth conversations anymore.”

“Like a trip”

Interest in how entities interact has been a constant theme of Jaramillo’s sustainable practice. “Each piece is like a journey,” Jaramillo said of his process. “I don’t know what I’m going to find out. I put a color on. The board tells me if it’s right or not. It tells me where it wants to go.”

Here in “Quantum Entanglement” and its counterpart “Quanta,” arrays of fine, vividly colored lines traverse vast expanses, then dissolve into a haze of vivid hues bleeding from the side edges of the canvases. Although Jaramillo uses sparing vocabulary, his paintings relay an important discourse. “It’s not a negative void,” Longwell noted of the corresponding black-and-white fields of the work, “but has weight and content.”

Jaramillo’s riff on Einstein’s scientific theory of how particles affect each other, even though they are separated by a great distance, reflects how disparate influences shaped his own long artistic career.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Jaramillo grew up in East Los Angeles responding to multicultural stimuli from her immediate environment in addition to her Latin heritage.

Jaramillo said she wanted to become an archaeologist, until one of her paintings was selected for the annual Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibit. Her age, 18, and her gender – she signed the painting “V. Jaramillo” – were unknown to the organizers, which testifies to the universality of her images. “It was the only way for me to get into the show,” she explained.

A little over a decade later, in the early 1970s, works from Jaramillo’s “Curvilinear Paintings” series were included in Whitney’s annual Manhattan Exhibition and in “The De Luxe Show,” alongside abstractions by Kenneth Noland, Larry Poons and Jules Olitski, in Houston. Last year, the Menil Collection marked the 50th anniversary of its groundbreaking exhibit in an abandoned Texas movie theater with a survey dedicated to the only Latin American female participant. It was Jaramillo’s very first solo exhibition in a museum.

According to Longwell, the simultaneous participation of Jaramillo and two of his male contemporaries in the Parrish was more fortuitous, largely the result of their life and work in the East End. While stylistically the three artists are distant from each other, the correlations – as dictated by the laws of quantum entanglement – surface beyond the geographic location of their homes and studios.

Although Jaramillo had not previously met Torreano, who divides his time between Sag Harbor and Manhattan, or Campus, a resident of East Patchogue, she is not surprised to find their images in tune with her own artistic vision.

“We are all intrigued by time and space,” she said, noting how the dawn of the space age has affected the direction of their respective work.

Explore space

In fact, images of stars, nebulae, and galaxies, especially those recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope, served as the basic material for Torreano’s murals, the starting points for representations of his personal cosmos.

“I use the results of scientific advances to support what I try to do as an artist in search of new possibilities in painting,” he said. “I try to make equivalences between these images, not to illustrate them but to express a closer and more intimate link with their scale and their violence.”

Ten of these paintings, dating from 1989, feature in Parrish, fiery and explosive compositions such as “Edge” and “Gases in Omega Swan” and those with more mottled surfaces, such as the more recent “Dark Matters / Dark Energy Collisions” .

Torreano’s early abstractions, on the other hand, featured a clear distinction between top and bottom. “Above was the sky, below the mud,” explained the 80-year-old artist, “but then I decided I didn’t want the top-down benchmark.” His solution? Depicting outer space, an attraction “driven” by his Catholic education in Flint, Michigan.

“What is the largest possible shape you can think of? This is the universe,” he noted. “Like the Church, I raised a point of view, transcended what it is.”

The religious influence is also reflected in the inclusion of fake gemstones by Torreano, a reminder of the night lights that were a prominent feature of his youth. First discovered by the artist in a trash can on Canal Street in 1970, hewn stones quickly replaced the dots he used as tools to create illusions of space. He also began making grooves in his painted plywood panels and adding logs, emphasizing the contrasting physical and illusory character of the works.

This contrast is also explored in Parrish by Peter Campus’ signature “videographers”, where he records movement in a fixed perspective, as in a snapshot or a landscape painting. The nine video loops – of a small tree on a grassy dune bending in the wind, seagulls floating near a blind duck, plankton in the current lapping against a mooring – were all recently shot by the artist from 84. years on the shores of Shinnecock Bay.

The campus fascination with “converting the real into packets of light,” as he described it, dates back to watching Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon, an event broadcast live on monitors on Earth via a camera mounted on the lunar module. . Campus noted the independence of the video camera in its artist statement. “I walk away as he records. He sees in a way that I can’t: in more detail, with more patience.”

Make “peaceful images”

A native of New York who worked in the film industry, Campus began experimenting with video as a viable artistic medium in the early 1970s. Encouraged by the foundational work of Nam June Paik and Bruce Nauman, he made his own. breakthroughs by exploring questions of identity through a variety of formats and techniques. Later in his career, Campus turned his camera lens towards nature and the landscape.

“I got tired of looking at my neurotic self, of all the Sturm und Drang and the anguish of looking inside. I needed to make more peaceful images, ”he said,“ building instead of dismantling ”.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Campus stayed close to home, eventually making solo expeditions, video equipment in tow, around eastern Long Island. “Being over 80 and having had heart disease and cancer, I felt extremely vulnerable walking in and out of the grocery store quickly. I was pretty scared and my job showed it,” he admitted. . “But once I got the shots, I relaxed and the work became less emotional – more spiritual.”

Indeed, the transporting power of the imagery created by these artists, although by markedly different means, binds them to each other. The same goes for their decades-long commitment, regardless of the vagaries of artistic fashion, in their projects. “They can take a victory lap, but then they get back to work,” noted Longwell. “They are working their craft every day. There is no slowing down.”

While Jaramillo plans to explore his own visual interpretations of brainwaves, Torreano continues to exploit photographic images from space, much like Cézanne has returned again and again to portray his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire.

“It’s that dynamic exchange between the familiar and the mystery,” Torreano said of the unyielding attraction to his subject.

Campus, too, continues where it left off. “Someone asked me if I was alone,” noted the aging artist of his lonely excursions into the Long Island landscape, “but what I’m looking for is something much bigger than me. “

WHAT “Virginia Jaramillo: The Harmony Between Line and Space”, “John Torreano: Painting Outer / Inner Space 1989 to Present” and “Peter campus: when the tohuly burly’s done”

WHEN | OR Until February 27, 2022, Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 am-5pm, Friday, 11 am-8pm; Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Hwy., Watermill

INFO parrishart.org, 631-283-2118