The works at 9 East Contemporary Art in Huntington are not connected by medium, generation or subject, yet the 10 “charter artists” at this new gallery are interlinked, some of them inextricably. This is in many ways a family affair.
The gallery opened its doors in December, but artist and 9 East director Richard Vaux said X Artists: A Gala Event, running May 2 through June 9, is their big event. “We wanted to wait until spring to have a grand opening kind of thing,” Vaux said, explaining that 9 East functions as a guild with 10 member artists who will receive equal coverage and exhibition time in the space. All members have included work in X Artists and each will have a solo show in the months to follow.
“I think of this space as sort of an intimate gallery,” Vaux said, describing the modest house and former real estate office turned gallery. Using white wood panels over the windows and unobtrusive, gray wall-to-wall carpeting, the members have created two rooms of quality exhibition space at 9 East. Vaux noted that the bathroom serves as a third area for exhibiting work, jokingly called the “annex.” It is indeed the most intimate of intimate spaces, but the various pieces of art on display are a nice distraction while occupying the room.
The 10 artists showing at 9 East are a mixed bag, yet they are all connected through the 9 East director and Adelphi University. Vaux is Professor Emeritus at Adelphi and most 9 East member artists are on the Adelphi faculty, though his wife Sandra Benny and son Joe Vaux round out the roster. “We have a nice mix,” Vaux said, explaining that everyone chips in at 9 East, whether serving as docents in the gallery, working on the website and promotions, or physical construction of the space.
Adelphi has earned esteem and attention for its ceramics program, so it’s no surprise that 9 East has masters of the medium among its ranks. The director of Adelphi’s ceramics program, Anti Liu’s sharp sense of humor and skill is evident with pieces like “Marilyn Monroe.” The ochre-colored clay sculpture playfully reflects Liu’s heritage by portraying a near life-size version of a Chinese terracotta warrior with his skirt blowing up, a la Monroe’s iconic scene atop the subway grate in The Seven Year Itch (1955).
Exhibiting artists Puneeta Mittal and Hugh McElroy are the “heart and soul of the [ceramics] program” at Adelphi, according to Vaux, though Mittal is showing a long and striking abstract oil on panel—number 30 in her “Pluripotent” series, influenced by microscopic images of cancer cells. McElroy’s “Shield” is exemplary of his rich clay work, pit fired with manure and leaves, in the traditional style of the Native Americans his pieces honor. Warm burnished surfaces contrasted against rougher areas of reddish-brown clay make McElroy’s sculpture attractive to the touch.
Printmaker and director of exhibitions at Adelphi, Eliz Alahverdian uses conte crayons, graphite and encaustic in her “Sediment” series, the first of which hangs at 9 East. The work has a natural quality to it; the lines, scratches and rich tones create a sense of something that has always been, like boulders and weather and the soil beneath our feet.
Elizabeth Mallia and Sandra Carrion also use encaustic and printmaking techniques in their work. Mallia is showing abstracted landscape imagery, while Carrion uses a simulated emulsion lift in “Hatchet-1,” an image of a Russian or Eastern European postmark with the shadow of an axe on a missive headed to the USA. Photographer Agnieszska Serafin-Wozniak’s pictures of the Grand Canyon, called “Moonscapes,” depict the rocky and desolate Arizona landscape in the stillness of a blue night. Studying the otherworldly images, it’s easy to see why Wozniak thought of the moon.
Using powdered carbon, oil colors, an airbrush and inspiration from the views near his home in Lloyd Neck, Vaux paints ethereal, “nature-inspired abstractions.” A formalist at heart, he is mostly focused on light. “These are art objects I’m creating, not pictures,” Vaux said, describing his style, which some have dubbed “abstract impressionism.”
While she is also inspired by nature, Vaux’s wife Sandra Benny uses colored pencils to draw detailed flowers in pieces like the 20 x 40-inch “Secret Places.” Their son, Joe Vaux goes to a completely different realm with his surrealist paintings.
Now living in Los Angeles, CA, Joe Vaux is an artist for popular FOX cartoon Family Guy, and his work shares its madcap sense of humor. “Clash of the Titans” brings together science fiction and fantasy as a red dragon battles retro-style spaceships flying over what could be an interstellar landscape. The Vaux family showed together once before, and Joe noted the multi-dimensionality to be, “like night, afternoon and day.”
If all goes according to plan, Richard Vaux said there would be plenty of opportunity to show in the future. 9 East is a gift for this guild of 10 artists and they’ll see where it takes them. “It sort of fell in my lap and frankly, it is a little bit of an experiment,” Vaux said.
9 East is located at 9 East Carver Street, Huntington, (631) 662-9459, 9eastcontemporaryart.com