Mass Ornament: Pleasure, Play, and What Lies Beneath

 Alison Gingeras brings curation to an elevated artistic form in her current exhibition, Mass Ornament: Pleasure, Play, and What Lies Beneath at South Etna, the new gallery in Montauk, Long Island, owned by Adam Lindemann and Amalia Dayan. In a show that is ‘deliberately dense’ in a space dissimilar to most galleries owned by Blue-Chip art dealers (more tiny-home-like and less giant-white-box-like), Alison creates an easily digestible feast of visual splendor, a wonderland of maximalism where rich meets richer and the baroque is raging on ‘roids of pure color, patterns and textures. A less informed curator would have created a clusterfuck of a show with the multitude of art objects, paintings, carpets, and furnishings and the countless and varying mix of artists therein, but Ms. Gingeras harmonizes the space and everything in it much the way Whistler painted the Thames at night: with mood and atmosphere in mind.

Rugs by Katie Stout

The show’s title is derived from a 1927 book, Ornament der Masse (published in English as The Mass Ornament) by Siegfried Kracauer (b.1889 –1966), a Jewish-German writer, journalist, and sociologist who is best known, perhaps, as an influential film theorists and cultural critic. Kracauer wrote brilliant insights about the circus, tourism, photography, Nazi propaganda and especially of film all with an aim to further understand society’s complexities and contradictions. But critical thinking on that level can, at times, be tiresome and Kracauer most certainly had his opponents. But when he wrote simply on, say, the photographic qualities of the street as “the arena of fleeting impressions and chance encounters”,  poetry emanates from his writing and on that purely aesthetic, pictorial level, where words paint a picture for the reader, Ms. Gingeras’ starting point with The Mass Ornament can be more readily understood.  As the Press Release states: Mass Ornament is conceived as a total environment in which the various paintings, photographs, textiles, ceramics, furniture, and other objects meld into an enveloping atmosphere that consumes the building’s interior and excites visitors’ senses.

Ohad Meromi lamp, Painting by Derrick Adams

To step inside Alison’s world at South Etna is to cross a threshold where lines are blurred between fine and applied arts, between the decorative and the functional object, and between sculpture and furniture. Here, art and life is purely pleasurable, leisurely, hedonistic even, meant to be enjoyed and not overly analyzed like Kracauer’s writings; our ocular perception becomes transfixed and invigorated; our tactile desires aroused, and like children in a candy store we plead for more.

Louis Frattini Painting Bruce M. Sherman, Ak Jensen

But there is more: something magical happens within the space as the sun begins its descent, as shadows emerge in the early evening’s brilliant glow and as a game of Hide & Seek or Catch Me If You Can are played-out with the constantly shifting lights and half lights beaming in from the gallery’s westerly facing window frames. Refracted light from the ocean and bay (reminiscent of the light in the South of France), from the window panes and the objets d’art now glistening in a golden hue, a soft and soothing and airy light engulfs the visitor as if standing in the middle of a mirage in the desert. The space becomes illusionary and calming, quixotic and transformative. We can write about the talents and splendors of each artist in the show another time, perhaps. But first, I implore all of you, whoever you are, to go bask in the art and light curated by Alison Gingeras at South Etna —-before it goes dark.

Derrick Adams, Floater 88 painting 2020 with Sculpture by Ohad Meromi

Artists and designers in the show are: Derrick Adams, Thomas Barger, Louis Fratino, Terri Friedman, Frank Haines, Varnette P. Honeywood, Ak Jansen, Nikki Maloof, Ohad Meromi, Ruby Neri,Gaetano Pesce, Rob Pruitt, Walter Robinson, Brian Rochefort, Jennifer Rochlin, Ugo Rondinone, Bruce M. Sherman, Katie Stout, and Iiu Susiraj.

Gregory de la Haba and artist Katie Stout

South Etna Montauk will be open to the public Thursday through Sunday from 11-6pm and by appointment. Organized by curator and writer Alison M. Gingeras, who collaborated with artist Katie Stout to design the installation.

-Gregory de la Haba

About the author

International Editor, Gregory de la Haba is a painter and sculptor with a penchant for writing and curating.