Quogue Gallery is a delightful surprise because it is one the country’s most prominent art galleries to be situated in one of the country’s smallest towns. Quogue (founded in 1659) is located on the beaches of Southampton on Long Island’s South Shore. Its population is less than a thousand, but the village has been well-known to surfers for its big wave break outside the Quogue Beach Club.
Founded by Chester and Christy Murray in 2014, Quogue Gallery quickly gained media recognition for exhibiting significant rediscoveries in Post War and Contemporary art. Both of the Murrays have extensive backgrounds in the art world and their program of exhibitions and talks have attracted serious collectors, inquisitive curators, and artists and their estates. Their focus is on Abstract Expressionism and Figurative Expressionism. They seek artists whose tremendous energy, passion, and innovation has produced distinct modes of expressionism that squarely place them at the top of the market — proven by works that match or exceed the quality of their more famous peers.
Quogue Gallery exhibitions have included brilliant but lesser-known painters of New York’s first-generation of AbEx painters such as Arthur Pinajian [1914–1999] a reclusive painter of lyrical abstract landscapes whose entire life’s work was nearly carted away in a Dumpster. This trash-to-treasure story was featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” as “the unlikely discovery that has rocked the art world.” Also important among the other early AbEx painters with idiosyncratic approaches were Emerson Woelffer [1914–2003] and Ben Wilson [1913–2001]. Tops among the second generation are Fay Lansner [1921–2010], whose figurative expressionism focused on the feminine form; Jay Milder [b.1934], whose expressionism includes the figurative, cryptographic signs, and numbers. Also on the New York art scene were Raymond Hendler [1923–1998] and Vincent Pepi [b.1926], both gestural Action painters who began in the late 1940s.
Another exciting discovery is Harry Bertschmann [b.1931], who in 1958 was the youngest artist admitted by the jury of the prestigious Carnegie International exhibition — where one of his large abstract expressionist paintings hung beside those by Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Barnet Newman, Philip Guston, and Robert Motherwell. In March the Murrays are showing his paintings at their newly-opened a satellite gallery on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village.
The Murray’s most recent rediscovery project concerns the works of Joan Thorne [b.1943], a third generation New York School abstract painter who art critic Stephen Westfall has dubbed a “New Image Abstractionist.” Quogue is featuring her works at Art Palm Beach January 16–20) and at Art on Paper in Manhattan (March 7–10), then culminating with a solo exhibition at the Quogue Gallery in July. Thorne was included in two Whitney biennials, was given a solo show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and won the Prix de Rome. Quogue Gallery is focusing on her paintings from the 1980s — which were part of Barbara Rose’s seminal exhibition, “American Painting: The Eighties,” at the Grey Gallery at New York University. Westfall wrote, “Thorne’s sensitivity and exuberance with color renders the optical energy of her compositions delicious, or erotic, rather than jarring.” Seeing these nearly forty-year-old paintings with a fresh perspective reminds us why they received such laudatory reviews in the New York Times, Art in America, and ArtNews.