Whitehot Magazine

East Hampton NY: Mason Saltarrelli and Bill Saylor at Duck Creek Arts Center

Installation view, Duck Creek Arts Center, 2020

Le Deuce Deuce: Mason Saltarrelli and Bill Saylor

Duck Creek Arts Center 

Open to the Public Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 12- 4pm


Beyond the glitz of Main Street, Newtown Lane, and the perfume weighted air with news of monolithic Manhattan galleries eastward expansions—winding over old Indian footpaths, paved roads, through wooded reef, is the turn off for Squaw Road, site of The Arts Center at Duck Creek’s recent exhibition of works by Brooklyn based artists’ Mason Saltarrelli and Bill Saylor. 

The show entitled, “Le Deuce Deuce” is as much a sequel to their preceding exhibition at Shrine (of the same name minus a Deuce),as it is, an algorithmic word play of a tawdry homonym or a Vulcan reminder of life’s multiplicity—we come in peace—not without permutations.

The shows namesake rolls on the same side of separate dye; two mid-career artists that took similar journeys through the core of NY’s neo-expressionist universe, both performing as assistants to art elite, Julian Schnabel, at his Seven Sister’s studio, but at different times. They would later encounter one another through a process not unlike osmosis. On Instagram, a mutual appreciation for one another’s work stoked a karmic bond. It seems almost fated now that they are here together, in the mythical land of Pollock-Krasner, not far from their old Seven Sister’s haunt.  

Installation view, Duck Creek Arts Center, 2020

Upon arriving at Duck Creek, two things are apparent: the rhythmic drumming of car tires upon the bumpy road like ritual, and three structures that emerge from a clearing in the wood like Puritan mountaintops. It is relevant that their work would be shown here. In a space, buoyed by the boundlessness of nature and time. It allows if just for a moment meditation of our tiny thought littered minds on something greater, that might then reward us upon our departure with a renewed vigor, to do better toward one another because after all we are our brother’s keeper.  

So it is, Saylor and Saltarrelli or Saltarrelli and Saylor (sounding like a hip Manhattan ad firm) present a universe, in eight works total, two paintings and two sculptures from the former, and four paintings from the latter.   

Saltarrelli’s work, shows in quiet contrast to Saylor’s gushing abstractions. The formers are a simple but substantive broth and the latter’s a soulful stew-spilling over onto the floor in the form of two standing sculptures. They, in concurrence with the natural setting at Duck Creek, attempt to lean on one another in good provenance.  

Saltarrelli’s physically lean pieces, composed of just-so, raw canvas, gesso, charcoal, and the occasional application of what I assume is primary blue pigment—plays on subtle tonal variations. These appear to make up parts of the cosmos, from which all other objects in the room are derived. 

The press release states Mason was after a looser approach to his paint application, but it still feels very deliberate to me; not loose but academically methodical, conscious of the other dancer in the room. Thus, his work is used as a place setting, so to speak, for the other more outrageous dish.   

His works titled after constellations are constantly growing and shrinking, never static but moving with our focus. The blunt edges of paint in the work Cassiopeia are reminiscent of the phones in our pockets, portending the omnipresent vanity that the mythological namesake calls into question. Composed in a portrait-like orientation, with four coal shaped stars, explicitly enclosed in square boxes of raw canvas surrounded by white paint, with one star, “epsilon,” not so arbitrarily shown beyond the other star’s micro-cluster.  

Installation view, Duck Creek Arts Center, 2020

The push pull of negative spaces wittingly creates auras in scale. The raw cotton frame acknowledging the artist’s measured pencil markings along the stretch of the canvas edges, refocuses our attention to the present literal, but for a moment, there, we were just as small as tiny carbon (coal mark) floating in air. 

The series that showcases constellation’s Böötes, Orion and Ursa Minor encloses some stars, and places others, like with, Böötes beyond a veil (in this instance reminiscent of Ross Bleckner) curiously conversing with one another in a spartan-like minimal language. These paintings bring Saylor’s creatures under a microscope—as if plucked from the seaside or the very deep puddle of a petri dish, drawn into view, larger than life, in the tall framed room. 

Saltarrelli’s color palette is muted and does not visually overlap with the vibrant flashe, oil, and spray on Bill’s canvases. But I wonder, if a certain level of synchronization were desired, in addition to the subdued white and blues, might a touch a yellow (like in Bill’s Triad piece or the ochre in Lucky Charms) have taken the exhibition further along. But this is not my primary grievance just a thought that came to mind while viewing Saltarrelli’s work. My chief complaint is that such a thought came to mind at all. The work is smart, so I would have liked more of it in a room all its own, given opportunity to build on its quiet complexities. However, short attentions drift towards the gargantuan creatures in the room.  

I’m drawn into swashbuckling conversations with the likes of Charles Darwin and Thomas Pynchon; they’re conversing over the subconscious mind of Faulkner, Gremlins, and Kush—all portals for me into the realm of artist Bill Saylor.  

Installation view, Duck Creek Arts Center, 2020

Bill has been a mainstay in the Brooklyn art-scene since the late 90’s. His irreverent style, expressionistic like Penck and genuine like Traylor, merges marine biology and 80’s pop culture. A style that has outlasted “rebellious” fades touted about town like seasonal handbags. Saylor stakes his claim over an occultic look that better encapsulates the rebellious American artist than what some Chelsea project space might manufacture. One need only to look upon his jerry-rigged studio, assembled outdoors with tarpaulin, wood, and other colloquial things.  

A few such items have entered the show, in the form of his assemblage, Accumulator, made from: pine tree trunk, cedar board, metal, mylar, and PVC pipe. This departure from his paintings has the feel of folk art found in an eccentric’s defunct barrier beach house. It attempts to do as it says on the tin, accumulate, like the tiny wood totem mounted to its satellite dish with cosmic comic book powers. However, it feels to me a bit extraneous.  

There’s a different sort of sensibility. It’s stripping the paint. The totem mounted to the piece has a godlike aura but it’s throwing off the power dynamic in the room. Like Matisse’s studio show, the work is a chance to draw back the curtain on Saylor’s studio process but in this instance, it seems out of place.  

The show plays to the multitudes of our shared experiences for all things living, and showcases two talented painters, playing a similar song just so differently. Had I a wish upon those stars it would have been to incorporate more the dialectic of the land and infrastructure available. If possible, sew the expanse so that Saltarrelli’s language be read clearly, with proper inflection, and Saylor’s work returned to its natural habitat, in the sway of the tree’s, oriented by the triad constellation of barn buildings—a satellite nation of painterly delight. WM


Chase Szakmary

Chase Szakmary is an interdisciplinary artist and writer. He holds a Master of Arts degree with first-class distinction honors from Chelsea College of the Arts, University of the Arts, London, and a BA from Boston University. His artwork has been exhibited in London, New York, and Amsterdam and is in private collections in New York, London, and Bermuda. He has taught undergraduate courses at Stony Brook University and conducts his practice out of Long Island, New York.

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