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News: Parrish Celebrates 125 Years, February 15, 2023 - Mark Segal and Jennifer Landes for the Easthampton Star

Parrish Celebrates 125 Years

February 15, 2023 - Mark Segal and Jennifer Landes for the Easthampton Star

One hundred and twenty-five years ago, the Parrish Art Museum opened to the public as the Art Museum at Southampton. For most of its first century, it was housed in a Florentine-inspired Renaissance Revival building on Job's Lane currently occupied by the Southampton Arts Center.

The Parrish is now in Water Mill in a contemporary structure inspired more by the surrounding vernacular agricultural architecture than Alberti and Brunelleschi. It is celebrating its quasquicentennial with a diverse slate of exhibitions and public programs, including a new initiative, "Artists Choose Parrish," a comprehensive survey of the Abstract Expressionist James Brooks, and a project for the building's south facade by the French photographer and street artist JR.

Last week, the curatorial staff of the Parrish and its director, Monica Ramirez-Montagut, unveiled these programs with some of the participating artists at Christie's auction house in New York.

Ms. Ramirez-Montagut noted that the Parrish's approach is now more varied than it has been. There were times when the museum showed international art as a way of demonstrating how it paralleled what artists here were doing. After thinking about the past 125 years, she said, the museum is looking in a different direction.

"We are keenly aware that a lot of programs and the artists we show at the Parrish are in fact already part of that international and global dialogue," she said. "We need to be able to be more purposeful in leveraging that when we tell the story of the Parrish."

The museum plans to be more responsive to the communities it serves, seasonal or year round, as well as the varied ethnicities they represent.

"We always have, but we're going to have to be more intentional and committed in serving the particularities of those audiences." The institution will be more welcoming and the programs will provide more "diverse points of access for different audiences."

The centerpiece exhibition, "Artists Choose Parrish," will reflect this new commitment, consisting of 40 renowned artists with strong regional connections selecting works from the museum's permanent collection to be shown with their own. Organized in four installations, the first set to open April 16, the selecting artists include Alice Aycock, Ross Bleckner, Nanette Carter, Robert Gober, Rashid Johnson, Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, Amy Sillman, Ned Smyth, and Michelle Stuart.

As suggested, this will not be a one artist, one painting kind of installation. Participants will have whole walls and even rooms to explore their choices. 

Ms. Sillman said last Thursday that she chose Saul Steinberg to explore as a way into alternative communities. Steinberg has often been cast out of the art world for being "an illustrator" or for not being serious. "There's a kind of criticality that involves being in and out, and up and down and out and not out and further out, and that's kind of where Long Island is."

Born in Southampton, Pamela Council, another participant, said she grew up between Bridgehampton and East Hampton, steeped in the artistic heritage of the region but acutely aware of her family's own history within this place. In her work "Auntie" she honors Shinnecock and Black life here as well the migrant workers of the past and the more recent immigrants who come here to work. She chose the piece, which was inspired by a Dionne Warwick tweet, to be paired with Dan Flavin's "To the Nominal Three." She noted that Flavin often dedicated his artwork in his titles, and the site he chose for the Dan Flavin Institute (now Dia Bridgehampton) once housed a congregation founded by some of her "aunties" when it was the First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton.

Ms. Carter, who works in collage, approached her selection as a curatorial process. In her room, works by 13 women and nine men, many of which have not been on view since the 1990s and early 2000s, will be shown, including works by Romare Bearden and Frank Wimberley that she hopes will end up next to her oil-on-Mylar piece "Cantilever #53."

Opening on Aug. 6, "James Brooks: A Painting Is a Real Thing," organized by Klaus Ottmann, who once served as an adjunct curator of the museum, will include 50 paintings drawn from public and private collections. Brooks (1906-1992), who lived and worked for many years in Springs with his wife, the painter Charlotte Park, embraced experimentation and extended the vitality of Abstract Expressionism. 

JR's mural was inspired by children in refugee camps in Rwanda, Ukraine, Mauritania, Greece, and Colombia. Represented by aerial photographs of people carrying banners depicting a child running as if playing a game, the children and their situations are recontextualized to an utopian world where their hopes and dreams can be realized.

Other upcoming shows include "Chisme," an installation of 15 painted woodcut figures depicting Latinx migrant workers. The exhibition has been organized by Jose Campos, a.k.a. Studio Lenca, in partnership with WeCount!, a membership-led organization of low-wage immigrant workers in South Florida who made drawings of plants, trees, and seeds on the backs of the figures. "Chisme" will open on March 12.

The museum will open its annual student exhibition, a 65-year tradition, that same day, with work by more than a thousand young artists from schools on eastern Long Island. And expect to see more Parrish Road Show off-site installations this fall.

This year's Midsummer Dinner will honor the artists Eddie Martinez, Sam Moyer, and Hank Willis Thomas, whose 55-foot neon sculpture, "Remember Me," can be seen on the museum's south facade.

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