A Gallery re-opens in Oak Bluffs

"Vanquish," an oil on canvas by Rez Williams. — Photo courtesy of A Gallery

A Gallery, which brought an exciting array of contemporary art to the Vineyard art scene last summer, reopens in Oak Bluffs on Thursday, July 25. The gallery’s first show this season consists of portraits by photographer Mariana Cook from her most recent book, “Justice: Faces of the Human Rights Revolution.” A number of other Vineyard-related artists will also be on display in the newly renovated former NYE Gallery on Uncas Avenue. A reception will take place Sunday, July 28, from 5 to 7:30 pm.

Nearly two-dozen large black-and-white portraits of human rights activists were already leaning against the walls of the gallery last weekend, ready to be hung. The photographs include retired Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, a Vineyard summer resident; and poet/activist Rose Styron, a Vineyard Haven resident. The late Anthony Lewis, a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist and former Vineyard summer resident, wrote the introduction to “Justice” before his death last March.

“I met with her [Ms. Cook] in New York in May, and the new exhibit coincides with book talks she will make on the Vineyard, so the timing seemed ideal,” said A Gallery proprietor Tanya Augoustinos.

Ms. Augoustinos has long had a commitment to art that speaks to issues, and she pointed proudly to a Cook portrait of former President Jimmy Carter ready to go on display. Mr. Carter made news last week by announcing that America no longer has a functioning democracy in response to the National Security Agency controversy over warrantless surveillance.

“A Gallery introduced to the Island not just that there are contemporary artists on the Vineyard, but that there is an audience for contemporary art here,” Ms. Augoustinos said about her gallery’s mission.

Interspersed with the portraits are photographs from Ms. Cook’s “Stone Walls” series. “Stone Walls: Personal Boundaries,” was one of the gallery’s most popular exhibits last summer.

In the center of the gallery is “Five Leaves Left,” a giant photo installation by Peter Eaton Gurnz, a fashion photographer who has moved into fine art photography and whom Ms. Augoustinos is introducing to the gallery this summer. Mr. Gurnz is a sixth-generation Vineyarder who studied industrial art and photography at Rhode Island School of Design. Mr. Gurnz has an art barn in Katama that he uses as a workspace. He started the art collective BOXeight in Los Angeles and has others in Miami and New York.

The Gurnz installation at A Gallery is part of a larger, 24- by 12-foot work that consists of Vineyard leaf images in color, enlarged and embedded into acrylic gel-based panels. The panel segments are joined by tarred marlin fishing line and suspended on acrylic frames to form a rectangle. Many of the prose phrases below the leaf images, like “It will be love in the end,” were inspired by Vineyard-based singer Ben Taylor. A black-and-white image of dead Cedar Tree Neck treetrunks, enlarged and printed on sail canvas, is to cover the back wall of the gallery and provide a backdrop to the center display.

“I was waiting in the wings,” Ms. Augoustinos said of her mid-season opening in Oak Bluffs. Last year’s Vineyard Haven location was a temporary one, and she wasn’t sure A Gallery would reopen at all this year. “I was motivated by the artists I care about who wanted me to show their work,” she said. “This was the only space I could find that was this size [big enough]. I would like to find a more permanent space.”

In addition to Ms. Cook’s and Mr. Gurnz’s work, new oil paintings by West Tisbury painter Rez Williams set in New York City, including “Sixty-Ninth Street Transfer Bridge,” are included the current gallery exhibit. Also on view is Island-native Lily Morris’s “Changer,” an oil portrait of a crow carrying a globe in its beak. Other artists who will go on exhibit include Lucy Mitchell, Cindy Kane, Michelle Ratté, Billy Hoff, Margo Ouelette, Emily Drazen, and Margaret Evans.

Like its former State Road location in Vineyard Haven, A Gallery’s new space, with an expanse of charcoal-colored walls and track lighting, has an urban warehouse feel that is appropriate for showing large contemporary artwork. The new space is four times smaller than last year’s, so Ms. Augoustinos has had to narrow down the number of artists she can exhibit.

On Saturday, August 10, A Gallery will open an exhibit spotlighting Mr. Williams’s work, and from August 24 to September 6, the gallery will focus on the work of North Carolina wood sculptor Rick Lazes. Then Ms. Augoustinos says she’ll wait and see, but she also intends to bring the artists she represents to off-Island art fairs.

Opening Reception, Sunday, July 28, 5–7:30 pm, A Gallery, Uncas Avenue, Oak Bluffs (formerly NYE Gallery). For more information about A Gallery, visit agallerymv.com.