Minutes away from the main retail drag of Circuit avenue, in the arts district of Oak Bluffs, reads a sign: “PikNik: Art & Apparel. Expect anything.” The “expect anything” line encourages visions of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain or other more radical, conceptual art pieces. In fact, PikNik is currently showing an abstract exhibit, which seems to fit “expect anything” expectations.
And lest Michael Hunter, curator at the gallery, be made a liar, and have told us to expect anything when he really meant for us to expect only most things, or some things, his new show will confirm the genuine nature of his mantra.
The Urban Show, which will open to the sumptuous thumping jazz and lounge beats of Island phenom Deejay Diana, is sure to impress or at least surprise those on the Arts District Stroll this Saturday. For while Vineyard art tends to be grounded in the serene natural Island environment, Mr. Hunter’s vision for the upcoming collection goes in a wholly different direction.
Many artists relocate to the Island to block out the hubbub of city static, but Mr. Hunter has embraced its artistic potential: “When you ask an artist to paint an orange, you pretty much know [what] you’re going to get. When you ask an artist to paint a city or metropolis, it’s wide open.”
Indeed, the results are varied. The cityscapes range from Maryland to New York. Some scenes might be in any city, but represent the urban ethos, replete with millions of parallel narratives. A particular work by Paul Norwood prompts Mr. Hunter to comment on his fascination with city scenes: “This piece, for example, shows how in the city we can be with each other and be by ourselves at the same time. It’s like ‘I don’t want to talk to anyone, but it’s nice to know they’re there.’”
Mr. Hunter, a New Yorker himself, seems to know the sensation well: “For 14 years now I have voted and paid taxes in Oak Bluffs ... but I was born in Manhattan ... I’m getting a little wanderlust and I guess this is my way of bringing New York city here.”
The metropolis’ awesome variety of subjects will be on display on Saturday afternoon. The paintings will include a painting of a fire hydrant and even a painting of a pigeon’s hind parts, cleverly titled Rush Hour by artist Sherri Blalock. Mr. Hunter hopes for the gallery to be a landing pad for interesting urban things, not unlike Newark Airport. He is attempting to mount a Max Decker painting on a billboard outside (and also praying for good weather). A huge mixed-media self portrait by Traeger DiPietro will hang. There will be the requisite rooftops. Ellen Liman will showcase the construction site of the Beekman Tower.
The show’s full roster includes, Sherrill Blalock, Gregory Coutinho, Max Decker, Nicholas Difonzo, Traeger DiPietro, Ellen Liman, Paul Norwood and Adam Thompson.
Mr. Hunter finds it thrilling to exhibit such phenomenal talent via unexpected means. “I think its different than what’s offered up here . . . but the artists felt strongly enough about these scenes to create, and for some there’s no venue.”
Michael Hunter intends to stage the Urban Show annually. The key to understanding why he feels it is so appropriate on the Vineyard is balance: “I look forward to The Urban Show as a yearly occurrence that will grow and expand to accommodate new tribesmen and women who share dual loves for the Vineyard, while maintaining a foot on the pavement and subway grate!”
PikNik is one of several galleries in the Dukes County Arts District in Oak Bluffs that will host receptions from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday August 9. All are welcome.