Summer in the Hamptons: Bridgehampton by Arne Besser

By on June 17th, 2019 in Art History, Blog, The Collection at Rollins Museum of Art
Arne Besser (American, 1935-2012), Bridgehampton, silkscreen on paper, 1979, Gift of Mr. Saul Taylor, 1980.29.3

For decades, the Hamptons have been a prime spot for summer fun and a location from which artists draw endless inspiration. The New York-based artist Arne Besser (1935-2012) first gained recognition in the art world for his Photorealist paintings of urban landscapes with a “set-like” appearance; 1 street scenes with off-center figures caught mid-motion and rendered in painterly brushwork characterize his aesthetic output.2  This work, representative of Besser’s practice, originates from the 1979 Cityscapes Portfolio and features a picturesque view of a characteristic roadside attraction. Stationed in the center of Bridgehampton, the Candy Kitchen was founded in 1925 by George Stavropoulos. 3  This 1979 work evokes a sense of nostalgia attached to this historic place through its composition and atmospheric effect.

Frozen in time and placed in the central foreground, the Candy Kitchen occupies most of the space in the picture plane. Besser’s use of light generates movement throughout the composition, causing viewers to pause to examine the building’s detailed façade. The bright sign that reads “Candy Kitchen Ice Cream Parlour & Eatery,” the lightest and most centralized element of the work, immediately jumps out at the viewer. Below the main sign, the storefront window with bright red and blue neon signs paired with the warped reflections of the surrounding block adds complexity to the viewing experience. Besser plays with spatial relationships that simultaneously offer a view of Candy Kitchen’s interior, the space of the sidewalk, and the area in the distance conveyed in the reflection. He depicts all these elements in a tonal color palette that achieves the haziness of dusk. Beyond cool-color tones and the gray-blue sky, he creates an atmospheric effect through the blurred edges of the tree and the faded outline of the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church steeple in the background. The two figures in the foreground, one propped against the side of the building and the other stepping off the sidewalk, create a snapshot view and evoke the feel of a quiet evening in Bridgehampton. 

Besser captured this nostalgic view of the building just two years before Candy Kitchen was sold to the Laggis family, who operates the historic neighborhood spot on Montauk Highway today. Visitors can still enjoy homemade ice cream, especially during the summertime!

Orlando vacationers, however, can enjoy escaping the summer Florida heat by visiting the exhibition Mediated Reality: Cityscapes by Photorealists to see this work in person, now through September 8th.

1 “Arne Besser.” RoGallery. Accessed June 1, 2019.

2 Christine Lindey, Superrealist Painting & Sculpture (London: Orbis Publishing Limited, 1980), 108-109.

3 Emma Cervone. “Candy Kitchen hits the sweet spot in Bridgehampton.” Newsday. May 19, 2019.

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