by Bill Batson
Rockland residents don’t need to go to New York City to see the work of great artists because great artists come to Rockland. Operating from a home bequeathed by the family of modernist painter and teacher Vaclav Vytlacil, and an integral part of the prestigious Art Students League, a local artist-in-residence program attracts talent from around the globe. This Saturday, January 25, take a short trip to Sparkill for an open studio tour and reception at this bucolic, historic and vibrant visual arts center.
Every month, Vytlacil (add a “v” sound to wit-la-chill) hosts an open house for the artists that have been living and working there for the proceeding four weeks. The League Residency at the Vyt seamlessly stitches together the central threads of Vaclav’s life: the house where he lived and made art and the school where he studied and eventually became a hugely influential art instructor.
Vaclav Vytlacil was born in New York to Czech immigrant parents in 1892. At 14, he studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago on a scholarship from the school where he would hold court for decades, the Art Students League.
Located on 57th Street in Manahttan, The Art Students League was founded in 1875 and has played a pivotal role in shaping America’s fine arts tradition. The aroma and atmosphere of the building have changed little during the last 139 years. The smell of linseed oil hangs in the air, emanating from classrooms where students in stained smocks stare intently at nude models or still lifes, manipulating the tools of sculpture, painting or drawing.
During Vaclav’s tenure, his students included Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Cy Twombly and Tony Smith. In his 2010 obituary in the New York Times, Louise Bourgeois cited her studies with Vytlacil as a singular event in her eduction as an artist.
Vaclav was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists in 1936. His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Detroit Museum of Fine Arts.
The League Residency at the Vyt sits on a fifteen-acre estate set on the west side of Clausland Mountain and was built around the turn of the 20th century. The complex accommodates seven artists. Three residents are housed on the 2nd floor of the Vytlacil House in private rooms, with a shared kitchen, shared bath, and laundry facilities, and four more are housed in a recently constructed residence hall.
What Vyt Artists Get
- Single private bedroom
- $2,800 for a 4-week residency session
- Communal lunch provided weekly
- Specialized equipment such as a bronze furnace, ceramic kilns, forging, and welding equipment
- An extensive art library and reading room
- Campus-wde Wi-Fi internet
- Mentoring & critiques by professional, working artists and League instructors
- Open Studio event
- Group Museum trip to Dia:Beacon or Storm King Art Center
Vaclav’s north-lit barn has been transformed into the Trudy and Henry Gillette Studio for Painting. A “GreenShop” (Greenhouse+Workshop) provides flexible workspace with areas for a foundry, metal-smithing, ceramics, woodworking and welding, and a large walk-in kiln. The grounds double as a sculpture park, with site-specific and donated works on display.
Sohos and Williamburgs come and go, but for over a century, great artists from every discipline have found their way to eastern Rockland County. Some, like Edward Hopper were born here, others like Helen Hayes and Carson McCullers, moved here, and now, thanks to the legacy of Vaclav Vytlacil, a new group of creatives get to call our culturally fertile soil their temporary home each month.
Visit Vytlacil’s next open studio event on Saturday, January 25, from 2-4 p. Here is a digital preview of the work of the artists that you can meet in their studios on Saturday.
Charmaine Ortiz, Drawing, North Carolina.
Charmaine works with graphite and seeks to challenge its capabilities through new fields and applications, including object making and painting. Her current series of drawings conceptually explores the history of graphite while using geometric designs specific to her cultural identity.
Todd Stong, Painter, based in Providence, RI
His playful psychedelic paintings attempt to reconcile a visual approach to autobiography with the thoughts of Plato and Erich Auerbach. “I can incite a color-spattered battle between the organic and the geometric, liquid and solid, foreground and background, organism and robot, play and foul play.”
Cameron Shojaei, Painter (watercolor, acylic, oil), Baltimore Maryland.
“Art is all about speed now, like the bullet that pierced Chris Burden’s arm in 1971. As a young painter interested in rendering faces, hands and believable space there are times when I feel like a member of an endangered tribe. I’m from Baltimore Maryland and I don’t like abstract art.”
Frazer Salter, Sculptor, Edinburgh, Scotland
His new work relates to the topic of human augmentation, the ethical debates it raises in culture and the further development of the relationship between sculpture and the body.