Press Releases

March 3, 2005

"Spades, Optical White/ Spades, Black Grove" Transcends Walls at Southampton College’s Avram Gallery

Beth Giles/Amanda Olsen (

Southampton, NY — From February 28 to April 6, 2005, the Avram Gallery at Southampton College will show work entitled "Spades, optical white" (ultraviolet light installation) and "Spades, black grove" (site-specific installation) by John Hillis Sanders, an installation artist based in Long Beach, California. Sanders’ unique approach of adapting his art to the gallery is a total reversal of the normal exhibition, where the gallery would normally accommodate the work. This synergy allows the environment itself to become a functioning element in the nature of the composition.

Sanders produces site-specific work, often in large public spaces. He has visited the college, inspected the site–as is his usual procedure–and determined how he will use it. He speaks of "activating a space" at the same time as he is impelled to "develop the art that I feel is compatible with the location." As in all of his recent work, Sanders’ installation here will take into consideration conditions such as how light falls, how weather changes materials over time, how the position of the spectator alters his perception, and how human activity in the area of the installation influences the spectator’s view of it.

Though the Southampton campus is not truly a public space (since it is a private college), it has open spaces that Sanders treats, playfully, as a large public space, an alterable landscape. This is consistent with work he has done elsewhere, introducing his multiple sculpted forms into places where they produce unexpected illusions or associations.

For example, for "Site Specific/Sight Pacific," he produced a series of figure cut-outs–greyhounds in running position — on a grassy hillside at Marymount College in Rancho Polas Verdes, Calif. From the near distance, the figures were simply amusing. From a moving vehicle on a nearby freeway, the illusion of movement was complete. On another occasion, at Bixby Park, Long Beach, Calif., he affixed to the 20-foot-high wall of a building a series of wedge-shaped steel plates. Thus ingeniously, from a still wall, and still pieces in series, he created the illusion of birds in flight.

Sanders’s exhibition at the College will be in two parts. In the first part — February 28 to April 6 — Sanders will employ multiples in an environment of ultra-violet light within the Avram Gallery. In the second part — April 25 to June 6 — he will use the outdoor space surrounding the Fine Arts Building. While Sanders often employs familiar and quasi-industrial materials such as plywood and steel, in this case he will be using objects that are familiar to every household: spades, as in both playing cards and shovels. Surprise lies in the quantity and arrangement of these commonplace objects.

Trained as a ceramist, Sanders exhibited work in clay during the seventies and eighties. He began to produce larger environmental works, using a wider range of materials, in the late eighties. Since then he has produced numerous site-specific works, generally in the California area, with some installations abroad, including Berlin. He has also lectured and conducted workshops in California, Honolulu and Lisbon.

There will be a reception for the artist Thursday, March 31 from 4 to 6 p.m., with a talk by the artist at 5 p.m. This event is sponsored in part by the Town of Southampton, the John P. McGrath Fund and the Arts and Media Department of Southampton College.

Avram Family Galleries are located in the Fine Arts Building on Southampton College’s 110-acre campus overlooking Shinnecock Bay and the Atlantic Ocean on Long Island’s East End. Both student works and those of professional artists are displayed in the 700 square foot facility. The facilities are named for Dr. Michael Avram, whose financial support made both the galleries and theater possible.

For information about the exhibit please call Gallery Director Beth Giles at (631) 287-8234.