Guild Hall will open its next museum show, “Eric Fischl: Beach Life,” at its annual summer benefit tomorrow night. A reception for the public will follow on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m.
A long-term resident of the South Fork, Mr. Fischl has returned to the beach for inspiration for most of his career. His focus is on the figure and a kind of sociological and psychological intensity created by its groupings and attitudes.
With beaches ranging from familiar South Fork haunts to sites in St. Tropez or St. Barts, the activities, appearance, and bearings reveal a haute-bourgeoisie sensibility.
Mr. Fischl will be given the entire museum for this show, spanning the years 1983 to 2010. Fifteen paintings will be on display, ranging from easel-size to large-format canvases. Two of them have never been displayed before publicly. Those familiar with the artistic community here may recognize some of the faces in the paintings; for example “The Gang,” which features his wife, the artist April Gornik, front and center.
There can be something a bit uncomfortable or voyeuristic about these paintings. When people are disrobed they don’t look like the frank, smiling exhibitionists of Tom Wesselman’s Pop paintings. There is a certain edginess to the figures, an expected summer lightheartedness that feels feigned and darker.
The artist has said that his devotion to the figure comes from its “needs and desires and union and oneness and aloneness. It’s all about the edges and boundaries of the flesh, the needs of the flesh. I’m trying to find out what my relationship to the body is, the comfort and discomfort, the appropriate and the inappropriate.”
Mr. Fischl will also show the “America: Now+Here” portfolio of 13 photographs by various artists tied to his project of the same name, which is an artistic response to the aftermath of 9/11. Mr. Fischl invited a number of visual artists, poets, playwrights, filmmakers, and others to contribute work to the project, and has been raising money to display it throughout the country. Proceeds from the sale of the portfolio will go toward that end.
The artist will give an illustrated talk about his work on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the John Drew Theater; admission is free for this event. Tickets for tomorrow night’s benefit start at $1,200 for dinner, and can be purchased through Guild Hall’s special events department or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christina Mossaides Strassfield, the Guild Hall museum director and chief curator, organized the Fischl show, which will remain on view through Oct. 14.