Billy Sullivan: LOVE LETTERS Announced at Rental Gallery

Billy Sullivan: LOVE LETTERS Announced at Rental GalleryRental Gallery is pleased to announce a new solo exhibition featuring the work of New York-based artist Billy Sullivan, opening on Saturday, May 19 in East Hampton. The gallery will celebrate the new series of paintings and drawings with a reception on Saturday, May 26 from 6:00-8:00 PM.

Sullivan has long described his work as "diaristic," aimed at capturing the people around him, who could be friends, artists, writers, models, or even randomly met strangers. Anchoring his practice is a large archive of personal photographs-originally slides, now digital images-which often serve as visual templates for his deceptively straightforward portraits and still lifes. "The camera renegotiates social boundaries and creates collaboration," says Sullivan. "I am never a voyeur, the subject is always a participant."

Sullivan's art continually engages fleeting moments in the present tense, distilling them into paintings and drawings whose gestural and flickering surfaces belie a subtly layered formal construction. In several of the most recent portraits, a sense of intimate reflection is far more important than any notion of the subject's worldly renown or celebrity. In one 2018 painting, the artist Rashid Johnson pauses over a worktable in the studio, his gaze directly meeting ours. In another, artist Anne Collier seems aware of our scrutiny but is absorbed somewhere else; in the background, a shelf of vinyl records slyly evokes her own work's conceptual practice. And a 2018 pastel drawing, titled Rachel and Nate, shows a studio-visiting couple who, like Nate's deliberately mismatched shoes, are pared together yet focused on opposite sides of the room.

At other times Sullivan's work is suffused with a retrospective quality, as when he reaches further into his archive to reconnect with moments from the deeper past. "All my pictures are about being in the moment," he says in one context, while admitting elsewhere, "Linear time doesn't matter." Thus in one 2018 pastel drawing, Jackie Curtis, Hedges Lane, 1970, we encounter the legendary drag superstar-whom Sullivan had known since high school-lounging in the grass late on a Sagaponick summer afternoon, as though forty-eight years had not gone by. Likewise, the 2017-18 painting Trisha memorializes the recently deceased dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown by reworking an image of her from 1982. "When I'm working on these paintings or drawings," says Sullivan, "I'm spending time with people I've known from different moments in the past-I'm still thinking about them." In these and other works, the past reencounters the present within the work's "eternal now."

The exhibition will remain on view at the gallery through June 17.

Billy Sullivan was born in New York City and studied at the High School of Art and Design and the School of Visual Arts. He has had numerous solo exhibitions at galleries such as kaufmann repetto in New York and Milan, Freymond-Guth Fine Arts in Zurich, Galerie Sabine Knust in Munich, Nicole Klagsbrun and Fischbach Gallery in New York, Texas Gallery in Houston, Regen Projects in Los Angeles, and Ille Arts in Amagansett. Sullivan's work has been featured in important group exhibitions including I (Love) John Giorno in Paris and New York, GLAM! The Performance of Style at the Tate Liverpool, Open Windows, curated by Carroll Dunham for the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, and the 2006 Whitney Biennial. He is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Detroit Institute of Art, Denver Art Museum, Guild Hall, and The Parrish Art Museum, among others. His first monograph, Still, Looking: Works 1969-2016, was published in 2016 by Edition Patrick Frey in Zurich.

Rental Gallery began in 2004 in Los Angeles as a way to bridge the New York and West Coast art communities, as well as to provide a venue for flexible and experimental programming, both by local curators and gallerists, and those from out of town. For more information, please visit

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