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Robert Dash's Last Body of Work Goes on Exhibit Next Week

The artist, who died on Sept. 14, returned to pastels at the end of his career.

Pastels in "From Blue Hill" Credit: Courtesy of The Drawing Room
Pastels in "From Blue Hill" Credit: Courtesy of The Drawing Room

Just weeks before he died, Robert Dash signed the pastel drawings that will be on display at the Drawing Room in East Hampton, starting Oct. 4.

"It is sort of bittersweet," said Alejandro Saraelgui, the director at the Madoo Conservancy, the Sagaponack gardens where Dash lived and worked. Dash was proud to exhibit there, he said.

"For someone who is not a friend of the gallery system, this is something he felt very comfortable with," Saraelgui said. The gallery is owned by Victoria Munroe and Emily Goldstein.

"We at Madoo are thrilled that the Drawing Room has taken it on — it's one of our premiere galleries on the East End."

The exhibition, which had been discussed for several years, was already planned for months before Dash passed away on Sept. 14, at the age of 82.

"Of course, we hoped Bob would be alive to enjoy the show," said Munroe. "As his last body of work, it was very close to him and it hung in his studio for two years until he was ready to exhibit it. Most of the works were created in 2011 and signed only weeks ago. It is a sad but beautiful tribute to his vision and his breadth of experience."

It will be the gallery's first exhibition of drawings from the late abstract impressionist painter.

From Blue Hill features a series of pastels on antique French rag paper that harken to his early work 50 years ago. "He did a really great series of pastels that are almost atmospheric in the early '60s. I find that it is interesting that he went back to that in this late period," Saraelgui said. These pastels are "more modern and fresher and very immediate," he said.

"Rather than working directly from or within nature, Dash intuited the landscape through memory, invention and an elastic mind," the gallery said in a statement.

The series, the cliffs, rolling green hills, and rocky shoreline of Blue Hill, Maine, are explored. “You know, the hills become blue when the altitude is 200 feet or more,” the gallery quoted him as saying in the weeks before his death.

Dash worked on them all at the same time, with a table of pastels in front of him, at his studio at Madoo, Saraelgui said.

"As Dash grew familiar with the terrain and the long vistas across Blue Hill Bay, he committed the site to memory, returning there in his pastel drawings time and time again. His energetic hand, quick strokes and exquisite color sense lend to the works a dynamism that links the eye and the mind as if the earth and its details are surging through the paper," the gallery's statement said.

"It really is the beginning of re-exploring Bob's artwork for the Madoo," Saraelgui said. "As we concentrate on the gardens, we also have to be protective stewards of his artistic legacy," he said, adding that at Madoo, the role of his art in a more public way is being considered.

Dash had more than 20 one-person exhibitions, shown across the country and overseas. His work is among the collections at The Modern Art Museum, Munich; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven and the Parrish Art Museum.

The show, which runs in conjunction with Chuck Holtzman's exhibit of drawings and wall architecture, runs through Nov. 4. A reception will be held for both exhibits on Oct. 5 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The Drawing Room is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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