Shoulder season at Old Sculpin suits abstract artist Ed Schulman

Ed Schulman

Artist Ed Schulman has always preferred to host his annual exhibit at the Old Sculpin Gallery during the shoulder season. Currently he is the featured artist in the back gallery space, sharing the Sculpin’s final show of the season with a group exhibit of new work by the other Martha’s Vineyard Art Association (MVAA) members.

“I feel very comfortable at the end of the season,” says Mr. Schulman. “The fall is my favorite time. I feel there’s an opportunity to connect with patrons. I have a number of collectors. It’s a very nurturing kind of thing with people who buy your work.”

The more laid back nature of the Island in October also gives Mr. Schulman a chance to meet and connect with those newly introduced to his work and/or the gallery. He takes advantage of the availability of studio space for art association members to set up shop during his 10-day exhibits, and he always welcomes visitors to stop upstairs to check out his work in progress or just enjoy the studio’s spectacular oceanfront views. “I really enjoy meeting people and talking about my work or about the Association’s history.”

As an abstract artist, Mr. Schulman feels some affinity with the one of the 240-year-old MVAA’s most distinguished artists — the late Vaclav Vytlacil. Vytlacil, who is currently being honored with an exhibit at the M.V. Museum, was one of the founders of the American Abstract Artist movement and a long-time member of the MVAA.

“He was truly an abstract artist,” says Mr. Schulman. “He was very instrumental in the work of de Koening and other abstract artists. It’s somewhat hard to understand his work vis a vis Martha’s Vineyard. He was doing something entirely different from the more traditional seascape/landscape painters here. I feel very honored to be part of the Association. I’m one of the few abstract artists in the group.”

Mr. Schulman shares another connection with Vytlacil. He was born and raised in New York and, like the late expressionist artist, he took classes at the Art Students League with Frank O’Cain, a former student of Vytlacil’s.

The work that Mr. Schulman is currently showing at the Old Sculpin is primarily New York cityscapes with a few gestural pieces also on view. He has a very distinctive, almost primitive style and works with a muted palette that reflects the New York brownstone-and-concrete skyline — evoking both majesty and a certain warmth.

“I work mostly from a skyline that’s implanted in my mind,” says the artist. “Included in the show are two paintings based on early memories of the time in the 60s when the East River froze over.”

Mr. Schulman notes that his dedicated patrons are not only New Yorkers, but also those with what he refers to as “an urban sensibility.”

“There’s a certain type of person who is drawn to my work,” he says. “People who are a little more open-minded and who collect a variety of styles, not just traditional seascapes.”

Along with the cityscapes, Mr. Schulman has included a couple of figurative pieces. He describes them as “a series of small quixotic works on paper — gestural style work.” There is also one painting called “Five Sisters” that represents another favorite subject of the artist’s — women wearing elaborate costumes. The bright clothing is reduced in his work to a study in abstract color and form, although the subjects are clearly identifiable as figures.

While occupying the Sculpin’s studio space, Mr. Schulman is essentially channeling the artist who has had an influence on his style. “I’m working on one big painting where I’m trying to follow up on the work of Vytlacil,” he says. “I’m trying to create at least one canvas in his style.”

Stop by the Old Sculpin during their business hours, Thursday through Monday from 10 am to 5pm, to view the work of Mr. Schulman and other MVAA members and visit with the featured artist. The gallery will close for the season on Oct. 22.