A new show captures a moment when the Hamptons teemed with New York’s art elite, thanks to photographer John Jonas Gruen.
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In 1959, three thriving artists—Jane Freilicher, Willem de Kooning, and Ruth Kligman—stood on Flying Point Beach in the Hamptons. Jackson Pollock had just died in a car crash; Kligman, his lover at the time, survived. Post-Pollock, de Kooning took over the title of greatest living American artist, and soon he took Pollock’s woman, Kligman, too. In this seemingly carefree photo (above), John Jonas Gruen captured the three in that tumultuous time.
Gruen captured a lot of important people—and important moments—on the Hamptons cultural scene during the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was a transformative time, when a new generation of artists, writers, poets, actors, and musicians was flocking to the East End on weekends, and Gruen was there to document it all, like an embedded reporter following the Lost Generation in 1920s Paris.
Today, Chelsea’s (Art) Amalgamated gallery is hosting “Flying Point Beach: Photographs by John Jonas Gruen and Artwork of the New York School,” an exhibition depicting the glamorous and scandalous lives of this creative class through more than 25 photographs by Gruen, accompanied by paintings by his wife Jane Wilson and other major East End artists, including Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, and Freilicher. The intimate works, each of which is its own little piece of New York art history, will be on view until June 9.