Hidden Hamptons: Halsey McKay Gallery

This gallery brings cutting edge art to the East End


Since its 2011 founding by curator Hilary Schaffner and artist Ryan Wallace, the Halsey McKay Gallery has ful lled the duo’s mission of bringing cutting-edge contemporary art to East Hampton. Continuing the town’s long tradition as a major art incubator, Halsey McKay has presented an impressively varied range of artists and programming, in addition to providing representation to a roster of emerging and mid-career artists such as Glen Baldridge, Denise Kupferschmidt, Hilary Pecis, and Matt Rich. Further cementing its support of East Hampton’s rich artistic tradition, the gallery hosts o -site installations and projects in nearby spaces such as the iconic Elaine de Kooning House.

Schaffner and Wallace themselves both have strong ties to the local community. Schaffner, who is a twelfth generation descendent of the renowned Halseys — one of the first families to settle in Southampton in the 1600s — has spent summers in East Hampton since childhood. Wallace — acting on a suggestion from his wife, who is a local chef — got to know the area after renting an East Hampton studio for his own work, joining the long line of artists who have been inspired by the town’s idyllic setting. (The gallery is named after Schaffner and Wallace’s maternal grandmothers’ respective maiden names.)

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O’Dell, All That Way

The summer of 2016 is off to a strong start as Halsey McKay hosts exhibitions of work by Shaun O’Dell and Matt Kenny from June 11- 26. The Texas-born O’Dell makes drawings, videos, music and sculpture that explore the intertwining realities of the human and natural orders. His show represents a joint vision between himself and m.waterfall, an 85-year-old artist and mystic. According to O’Dell, “In our work together, m.waterfall has led me into the past to see and discuss her epic earthwork The Waterfall. The Waterfall is located in time some 15,000-years-ago and in space at a point 250 feet below the surface of the Long Island Sound between what is now Great Gull Island and Fishers Island.” His activities with m.waterfall and The Waterfall resulted in mixed media works on paper and canvas, in addition to a sculptural theremin, marble work and a site-specific installation.

Matt Kenny’s exhibition is an installation of his shaped aluminum tube paintings, which evolved from a decade-old project involving paintings on aluminum, based on bullets from the Kennedy assassination. These works, according to the artist, “implied figuration, and with that figuration a kind of psychological weight.” Recently he became inspired when traveling by bus or train by glimpses of transit storage yards, specifically the sight of discarded drain pipes, mundane forms that contrasted with his previously painted bullets. “The tubes came out of looking for an angle into abstraction,” says Kenny. “Originally there were planks and x’s alongside the tubes, but the tubes distinguished themselves over time and they outlived the x’s and planks. The fact that [the tubes] were doubled, the paintings had an inside and an outside, they were more evocative in and of themselves.”

Says Wallace of the two artists and their work, “I am looking forward to having these exhibitions in the space simultaneously. Both artists are such interesting thinkers who abstract and extrapolate inspiration from their specific surroundings. Shaun’s work is so informed by the ideals and history of California and the American West and Matt’s from the urbanity of New York. I think it will make for a great dialogue between the shows.”

79 Newtown Lane, East Hampton; 631.604.5770