While the sun may indeed belong to everyone, the way it rakes over the East End’s farmland, wooded bluffs and jagged shoreline can suggest to many Long Islanders it exists only for them. For centuries, artists have been drawn here, inspired by the singular quality of natural light that defines the region’s littoral setting, as captured by the dappled brushstrokes in William Merritt Chase’s “Sunlight and Shadow, Shinnecock Hills” and the heat-saturated hues splashed across Jackson Pollock’s “Shimmering Substance.”
Swiss-born, mixed-media artist Ugo Rondinone, who has lived and worked on the North Fork for a good part of the last 20 years, is no exception. In fact, much of his versatile practice has been dedicated to the light source itself. Through mid-October, visitors to East Hampton’s Guild Hall can bask in the glow of a select group of Rondinone’s paintings and sculptures depicting the celestial form in the exhibit "Ugo Rondinone: Sunny Days."
“It’s like when you are a kid and you look up at the sun and you almost can’t because its pulsing,” says museum director and chief curator Christina Strassfield of the dazzling effect caused by the oscillating alignment of circles spray-painted in neon yellow and muted orange on the eight canvases filling Guild Hall’s Woodhouse Gallery.
“With their concentric rings and vibrating color, these large tondos have been associated with ‘60s op art,” notes art critic Bob Nickas. “Over time we have come to understand them as signs, like the sun, of energy, of rebirth, the revolutions of the earth, the cycles of life, and with them time itself.”
The notion that time is essential to Rondinone’s art is made clear by his adoption of the date and hour that he finished the paintings — spelled out in German — as the works’ respective titles. He assigns comparable English labels to the 12 sculptural iterations also appearing in the show. Casting in bronze and then gilding gnarled vines sprung from the earth, Rondinone creates sun sculptures of varying dimension, encapsulating temporal and physical paradoxes. Nickas, for one, considers them, installed in the center gallery, as potential viewfinders.
As such, they ultimately train the visitor’s gaze into the next room and on the ongoing project “your age and my age and the age of the sun,” comprising 1,000 drawings of the sun by young children that Rondinone has been assembling and showcasing in far-flung venues since 2013. There are some 600 drawings contributed by area students.
Whether Rondinone’s aesthetic ruminations on the sun engender self-reflection or universal connections, gallery visitors will find that an hour among them is golden.
WHAT “Ugo Rondinone: Sunny Days”
WHEN | WHERE 12-5 p.m. daily, Guild Hall, 158 Main St., East Hampton
INFO Free; 631-324-0806, guildhall.org