Mystery and magic in Winter Street Gallery’s newest exhibit


There’s magic to be found at the Winter Street Gallery in Edgartown. The current show features work by two artists — one an emerging painter and one a deceased acclaimed photographer — both of whom focused, utilizing their respective media, on themes of mystery, chance, and unpredictability.

The two-person show encompasses a series of paintings by Luke O’Halloran created specifically for the show and three photos by the late Sarah Charlesworth — a large format black-and-white “shattered” image of an ancient relic, and two oval photos of occult devices.

Gallerists Ingrid Lundgren and George Newall were inspired to pair the two artists after reading an article in the April 2021 issue of “ArtForum.” In the article “The Come Down; Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying,” Sam McKinniss writes, “O’Halloran seems to have inherited Charlesworth’s curiosity about metaphysics and optics, exploring their methods and veracity. The main difference is the generational chasm separating each artist’s cause for concern, but also that O’Halloran chooses to render and develop these interests using paint rather than by purely photographic means.”

Charlesworth (1947-2013) is considered part of the Pictures Generation, a group of artists working in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s that also included Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo. Charlesworth’s work is included in museum collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Lundgren and Newall worked with the Charlesworth estate to bring the photo-based artist’s three prints to the Vineyard gallery. The two ovals are part of the Natural Magic series done in the mid-1990s. The large mural print “Stone Tablet,” an enlargement of a cut-up reproduction of an ancient relic, was created more than a decade earlier in Charlesworth’s career.

O’Halloran is a Brooklyn-based artist whose career trajectory the Winter Street Gallery owners have been following for some time. “It’s the first time that these two artists are being shown together,” says Lundgren. “We are so excited to have these two generations of artists in dialogue and we’re thrilled to be showing this work on Martha’s Vineyard.” Lundgren and Newall opened the Winter Street Gallery last summer with a mission to bring exciting contemporary artists from New York and beyond to the Island.

O’Halloran’s contributions to the show include new work that represents a continuation of three series he has been working on and showing in New York City and elsewhere for some time. All of the images relate to magic or chance. A handful of paintings show playing cards tumbling through space represented by a vivid blue background. Two graphite-on-paper images represent that magical moment when winning identical numbers align in a slot machine. One painting shows a young woman building a house of cards, its destiny precarious. Another captures a rabbit being pulled from a top hat by a magician, represented by the man’s hands alone.

“I’ve been obsessed with luck and chance and risk for many years now,” says O’Halloran, adding, “in some ways, I feel like the rest of the world has caught up recently.”

Commenting on his series “Forever Spinning Wheels,” the artist says, “Life is inherently risky and uncertain. When the slot machines entered my work I was thinking about how casinos have found ways to somehow make losing fun. If they could make just losing over and over again fun, there must be something in that.”

Luck, chance, risk, uncertainty — whatever you want to call it, we’re all living through a very fraught time right now and O’Halloran has found a way to express the anxiety and intensity inherent in a crisis by using symbolism and metaphor. “I’ve always found that if you can find a way to get excited by that which frightens you, that can be a really generative space and the world doesn’t have to seem so scary.”

A show of work by Sarah Charlesworth and Luke O’Halloran will hang at the Winter Street Gallery, 22 Winter St., Edgartown, through August 15.