Fields and Fences: Paintings 1998-99


The Madoo Conservancy is pleased to present Fields and Fences: Paintings 1998-99, a selection of paintings by Robert Dash. The exhibition will be on view from August 9 through October 12, 2019, and is free and open to the public.


“The field was tended and cherished like any object of vertu. Unlike porcelain, however, whose pieces may be glued, the field is valueless and irreclaimable, the light of centuries of harvest snuffed.” — Robert Dash, Notes from Madoo 


The paintings from the series Fields and Fences are indebted to Robert Dash’s well-known paintings from the 1960s and 70s of a now all but vanished Sagaponack landscape. The pastoral expanse pushing past fences trying in vain to divide and contain it, as seen in this 1998-99 series, is also present in one of Dash’s paintings from nearly 40 years prior. This prefiguring work, Untitled, 1961, is included in the exhibition. By the late 80s, Dash’s fields have moved beyond representation and are made not of earth but of paint. Vibrant orange and yellow, pink and red, laid down with brushstrokes alternately fluid and harsh, pushing past the now ambiguous forms (fence or phallus) carefully scrawled in dark gestural lines of charcoal. While they retain elements of their precursors and anticipate their successors, these works mark a definitive departure into the world of expressionism and abstraction, a return to the scene of deKooning at the Cedar Bar, leaving behind the intellectual and tangible influences of his close friends Fairfield Porter and Alex Katz. Rural scenes composed of flat expanses of color were replaced by an explicit personal iconography and the emphatic brushstroke served as record, mirroring and revealing a psychological and emotional inner life both turbulent and sophisticated.

This exhibition introduces to a wider audience the work Dash created during this period, marked by an observant retreat from the New York art world, then transitioning from creative urgency to career ambition and from evolutionary invention to speculative investment. The series glimpsed here is one of several bodies of work that bridge the gap between the early Sagaponack scenes and the later Florilegium paintings shown in New York at ACA Gallery in 2001 and the series Sagg Main from 2007, his last major paintings, exhibited in 2015 at the Parrish Art Museum.


“Of course, there are the paintings of the field, but I am not interested much in paintings of vanished landscapes, and I loathe nostalgia.” — Robert Dash, Notes from Madoo 


Robert Dash remains an iconic figure, a seminal representative of the Hamptons’ rich history of artistic independence and fervor. As emissary of the urbane bucolic, his presence, intentionally or not, was and is as ward of an Edenic Sagaponack, its physical, artistic, and intellectual landscape now compromised. Brash yet philosophical, both loved and maligned, Dash’s every action was imbued with artistic intent, every relationship dependent upon intellectual and visceral pleasure or dismissed unforgivingly.

Robert Dash’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is in numerous major American art collections, including the Museum of Modern Art; the Guggenheim Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts; the Corcoran Gallery; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; and the Parrish Art Museum. His archive of poetry and garden writings was acquired by the Beinecke Library at Yale University in 2011.


Celebrating its 25th anniversary as a public garden in 2019, The Madoo Conservancy is dedicated to the study, preservation, and enhancement of Madoo, the ever changing, horticulturally diverse garden with historic structures established in 1967 by artist, gardener, and writer Robert Dash in the village of Sagaponack, New York. At Madoo, a unique living tribute to the artistic imagination of its founder, we seek to continually engage, educate, and inspire our visitors within this entirely organic environment. The Madoo Conservancy is a nonprofit 501(c)3 public charity.



Painting: Robert Dash, Untitled (Fields and Furrows I), 1998/99, oil on linen, 60 x 45 in.



AAQ Resource:

Lear + Mahoney Landscape Architecture