Elaine De Kooning (1918-1989) purchased a home in East Hampton after reconciling with husband Willem De Kooning in 1975 after longterm separation. The two artists married in 1943 and were technically together for 45 years but had a tumultuous relationship and were separated for most of that time. While Willem De Kooning’s career became more prominently recognized, each found fame in their own right. Elaine De Kooning built a studio extension to the home three years after purchase and made some of her most well-known works there in the mid-eighties. After the artists death in 1989, the house had several different owners including artist John Chamberlain and Richmond Burton.
Currently owned by Chris Byrne, founder of the Dallas Art Fair, the home is getting new life breathed into it by artists who have been invited to unofficial residencies there. Past artists include Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman, Jose Lerma, Sadie Laska and others. Most recently, artist Chris Duncan was invited to do a site specific work at the home. Duncan uses elements of light and memory in his work and the De Kooning home proved to be a perfect marriage of sorts. The home, once occupied by Elaine de Kooning has a cool dampness throughout the interior. Of course, one might say it is the art historical ghost of the past roaming the interior. Once a refuge, sought out as a shelter in close proximity to an unavailable loved one, the live work space is like a phantom and Duncan was able to tap into this visceral element. He, along with the support from Byrne and Ryan Wallace and Hilary Schaffner, decided to install fabric in the studio, solarium and a section of the home interior where the light had the strongest entry point. In a four month timeframe, the fabric absorbed the light and gradually captured the marks; a painting without human intervention.
However, after a tough, long and mostly gray New York winter, the fabric hadn’t reached the desired bleached out effect. Rather than abandon the project, a structure was built mirroring the exact size and proportion of the chosen windows from the home. One was placed on the rooftop of Wallace’s Greenpoint studio, while the other was brought to Duncan’s studio in California and reinstalled outside. Months later, the fabric returned to the De Kooning home, stretched, an eerie shadow of what was and what is. The light post-winter allowed for a deeper exposure and saturation leaving a stronger visible mark documenting the space, even after it was transported and recreated. The result is haunting, like the space itself, an emotional extraction of the invisible. A work all it’s own, it speaks to contemporary painting, installation and most importantly succeeds in channeling the hands-free agenda of the Action Painters, so relevant in the past of the Hamptons and artists who have worked there.
Currently still installed in the home, Chris Duncan’s works are available for viewing by appointment only. Please contact the Halsey McKay gallery to schedule a visit.