Ed Schulman of Vineyard Haven is a minimalist artist. He gets a lot of mileage out of a few brushstrokes and a unique juxtaposition of color. His work conveys movement through quick strokes and dabs of paint, and an implied narrative through a sort of vague stylistic quality.
Therefore Schulman sees his work as a good fit for the office space of the MVTV studios, where he will be the subject of an exhibit through July 1. “It’s sort of an industrial-style setting,” he says. “A building that serves a purpose, as opposed to a gallery. It’s a minimalist kind of Bauhaus setting.”
The self-taught artist has found that his paintings — particularly his New York cityscapes — work well in the space: “I have some urban scenes done in a vertical style.” The images he’s referring to are based on his memories of growing up in Manhattan; skyscrapers rendered in a very simple style convey the energy and majesty of the city. Another wintry scene of Boston captures that city’s unique look and sense of history, with a cluster of brownstone buildings shown huddling against a winter storm.
Making up the rest of the exhibit are a number of pictures depicting a far different scene. For the past few years, Schulman has been working on a series of images based on his time spent in the Caribbean, where his granddaughter was born.
In these paintings, color and life dominate the scene. One particularly striking image shows multiple female figures entirely filling a large, square space. It can almost be viewed as an abstract, with the dark limbs providing the bold vertical lines that Schulman is so fond of, while the figure’s simple garments and headwear are captured with colorful swirls of paint.
Other images from the Caribbean series feature simple sets of two or three women. In these, the reliance on form in favor of detail imparts a sense of a story open to interpretation.
Schulman has lived on the Vineyard since the 1970s, but the draw of the city pulls him back to New York — both in his work as well as in a more literal sense, as a visitor. He makes frequent trips to Manhattan, visiting museums, taking classes at the Art Students League, and participating in figure-drawing groups at the Society of Illustrators Club and the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park.
“It’s very important to me to return to New York often,” says the artist. “I’m nourished by the vibe of the city. The absolute flood of art and art-related activities and the level of excitement and the learning opportunities all energize and inspire me.”
On the Vineyard, Schulman shows at the Old Sculpin Gallery, where he is the subject of a solo show every September. He’s happy being a little bit off the grid as an artist. He has found that his work appeals to a very specific type of collector, and he has earned a dedicated following on the Island.
“I took up painting seven years ago upon retirement,” says Schulman. “I’ve gotten a bit of an education along the way about myself and the art world. I don’t find myself being very competitive; I just do it for my own sake and for people who like my work.”
For those who want to check out more of the artist’s work, he will be renting a studio space at 2 Walker Way, off Martin Road in Vineyard Haven, during the months of May and June, and he welcomes visitors. Call ahead to find out when he’ll be there working: 774-563-9794.
Ed Schulman’s paintings will be on display throughout May and June at the MVTV studios
58 Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Rd., Oak Bluffs.