Invitational Highlights East End Art

The Invitational officially began in 1967
“Footnotes,” a photograph by Caren Sturmer, will be on view in the Springs Invitational exhibit, which opens tomorrow at Ashawagh Hall.

The 47th annual Artists of the Springs Invitational Exhibit will open at Ashawagh Hall tomorrow and remain on view through Aug. 17. An opening reception will be held tomorrow from 5 to 8 p.m., and the exhibition’s curator, Sue Ferguson Gussow, will lead a tour of the show on Aug. 16 from 4 to 5 p.m.

Ms. Gussow, a painter and professor emerita of Cooper Union, where she still teaches a seminar, selected 125 artists for the exhibition. She looked at the websites of more than 300 artists, which she chose from a master list of all the artists invited and some suggested, but not invited, since 2000.

“There’s a lot of good work,” she said during a conversation at her house in Amagansett last week. “One interesting thing is that even though you limit the size of work to 25 by 25 inches and ask artists to keep the prices low, nobody reaches for the bottom of the barrel. There are beautiful drawings and small paintings. Most artists want to show themselves off well in this exhibition.”

The exhibition originated informally in 1958 as “Art on the Wall,” an outdoor show at Ashawagh Hall that usually coincided, as it still does, with the Fisherman’s Fair. The Invitational officially began in 1967 and has grown over the years from a handful of participants to a broad survey of work by East End artists.

Ms. Gussow purchased her house in Amagansett in 1973 primarily because it had a north-facing garage that would work as a studio. But she first visited the area in the 1950s. “I grew up in the world of Abstract Expressionism,” she recalled. “My cousin was a friend of Jackson Pollock’s and got married on Pollock and Lee Krasner’s porch. So as a teenager I already knew that world.”

Her neighbor in Amagansett was John Opper, a member of the New York School whose work was represented in major museums across the country. “John and his wife were mentors,” she said. “I remember John was in the invitational for many years. Once I ran into him there and he said to the people at the desk, ‘Why isn’t Sue ever invited?’ He said very nice things about me, but I didn’t get invited then, either.” She was finally selected by Arthur Byron Phillips during the 1980s and has participated in most, but not all, since then.

When Ms. Gussow was first asked if she were willing to curate this year’s show, she hesitated. “It’s a job one takes on a little reluctantly, in part because of the time involved. Without Beth Meredith, who handles all the administrative work cheerfully and efficiently, I wouldn’t have accepted.”

It was several months before she was officially asked to be this year’s curator. “I remembered how I had desired to be invited and hadn’t been, and I thought of a number of people who were first-rate artists but were seldom, if ever, selected. So this would be a chance to include them.”

A figurative painter, Ms. Gussow has taught, lectured, and served as visiting critic at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, the Maryland Art Institute, the Frick Collection, and the Royal Academy of Art School of Architecture in Copenhagen, among others. She is represented in such public collections as the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design, the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, the Seattle Art Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Frick Collection Archive, and in many notable private collections.

“It’s a delicate balance making the selections for the exhibition,” she said. “I was able to include some young artists, but I didn’t want to shut out artists who have been here for a long time. It’s an excellent idea to change curators each year so that the roster doesn’t stagnate.”

The exhibition will be open Sundays through Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fifty percent of sales from the exhibition will benefit the Springs Improvement Society’s Scholarship Fund, which in turn aids East Hampton High School graduates from Springs who are going on to college. Proceeds from the Fisherman’s Fair, which will take place on the Ashawagh Hall grounds on Aug. 9, are used to help maintain the hall.