‘Artists Choose Parrish’ Kicks Off the Museum’s 125th Anniversary Season featuring Nanette Carter
April 24, 2023 - Jennifer Henn for 27East.com
The Parrish Art Museum is commemorating its 125th anniversary this year with a three-part series called “Artists Choose Parrish” in which contemporary artists with ties to the East End have chosen works from the museum’s permanent collection to be shown alongside their own recent artwork.
The pairings are meant to highlight the individual pieces and to work together to tell a story or convey a feeling best expressed in collaboration, said Corinne Erni, the new chief curator of the Parrish. With 41 contemporary artists participating overall, visitors can expect a wide array of storytelling styles and subjects.
“When we came up with the idea we were, of course, very excited about it and we thought we might get 10 or 12 artists who’d want to participate,” Erni said. “The response was just overwhelming from artists of different generations, different mediums and with different relationships to the East End.
“It has exceeded our expectations at the Parrish.”
For the first part of the series, launching in two waves this month, 20 artists will have their curated pairings on display. They include Nanette Carter, whose large abstract collage “Cantilever #53” from 2020 will hang together with two African American artists she said influenced her greatly — including Frank Wimberley, her neighbor in Sag Harbor. Other artists featured in Carter’s exhibit space include Romare Bearden, Betty Parsons and Perle Fine.
Carter said her choices were focused on abstract art from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, essentially her lifespan.
“I was born in 1954 when abstraction was in its nascent period. The idea of creating, what I like to call, ‘New Worlds’ for the viewer to traverse was my modus operandi,” she explained. The artist chose some abstract expressionist pieces and geometric abstractions, plus a few representational works, “but the narratives have been deconstructed and reconstructed into more of a cubistic state.”
Other installments include a display curated by multimedia artist Sam Moyer, which features three works by famed sculptor Lynda Benglis — a papier collé, a monoprint and a mixed medium sculpture. Moyer, who is based in Brooklyn but cites a heavy influence from the North Fork thanks to Benglis, will show some of her work in black slate, marble and plaster-coated canvas, according to the Parrish.
In the second wave of the first series, going on display April 30, visual artist Nina Yankowitz’s collection will fill one whole gallery with “alternate perspectives for experiencing art,” according to the Parrish. The exhibition will include reclining lounge chairs from which visitors can look up to view some pieces. Others will be viewed from above, atop a 7-foot platform.
Yankowitz chose to feature works such as Chuck Close’s self-portrait and photographer Jackie Black’s “Last Meal (Series), 2001–2003,” portraying meals requested by death-row inmates. The display will be paired with Yankowitz’s sculptural paintings of body parts meant to evoke questions about “what’s on the other side,” a press release from the Parrish says.
Other contemporary artists featured in the first series include Bridgehampton painter Mary Heilmann, Pamela Council, Robert Gober, Ugo Rondinone, Cindy Sherman, Leslee Stradford and Michelle Stuart. Their exhibits will be on display until August 6.
Curated displays by artists Tony Bechara, Ross Bleckner, Jeremy Dennis, Eric Fischl, Claude Lawrence, Robert Longo, Eddie Martinez, Enoc Perez, Hank Willis Thomas and Joe Zucker will also be on view from April 30 to July 23.
To make their selections, the contemporary artists were invited to explore the Parrish’s 3,600 works of art in permanent residency, first through the museum’s online catalog, then in person in the vault, Erni said.
“They’ve been quite decisive about their choices, which has been exciting to watch,” Erni said. “It was a pleasure to see how they really got engaged with searching for the works and looking for the ones that spoke most to them.”
Museum staff helped guide some of the curating artists from time to time, Erni said, but final choices were the artists’ alone. After an initial round of selections from the online catalog, the Parrish opened the vault and let the artists get up close to their picks.
“When we took them to the vault, that was always a big revelation,” Erni said. “And sometimes they ended up discovering other works they hadn’t considered at first.”
Carter agreed it was a powerful experience to gain access to the Parrish’s collection on such an intimate basis.
“Seeing the artist’s hand and color choices up close was riveting. I know I squealed with excitement on a number of occasions,” Carter said. “It felt like Christmas with gifts coming out of storage for me to enjoy.
“Of course, I can’t take the art home, but I have hung them up for others to experience.”
Photographer and Shinnecock Nation member Jeremy Dennis, whose ancestry guides his work and informed his choices for the Parrish exhibition, selected William Merritt Chase’s painting “Shinnecock Landscape, 1894” to hang with his own photograph, “Sacredness of Hills.” The Chase painting is all landscape, while the Dennis photograph presents a woman in traditional tribal dress set against the backdrop of an expansive blue sky full of clouds and a slice of earth.
“I wanted to create a conversation between Chase’s work and the fact that many landscape painters omitted indigenous peoples and communities from their depictions,” Dennis explained. “These paintings were usually showing the rawness and untouched versions of nature as if no one has ever been in the Americas before Europeans.”
His photograph, he said, is meant to reference “our ancestors from over 3,000 years ago being dug up and disturbed in those same Shinnecock Hills.”
Dennis even went so far as to choose the framing for his photograph specifically to further the message.
“It was from the theft of [Shinnecock] land that the [original] Parrish building on Jobs Lane exists. And so, I decided to put my image in a similar frame to Chase’s painting, but in a white paint, to show that we have always been part of the architecture and structure of the Parrish in unknown ways,” Dennis said.
Some of the selections of work in this show were surprising to Erni, she said, and it was challenging for the series’ creators to choose which artists to put in which galleries, and whose exhibitions to install next to each other. Once finalized, the plans came together to create a fascinating, multi-layered experience for museum visitors, Erni said.
“We are showing works that we probably haven’t shown in a very long time, and this is reframing the work and giving it a whole new life,” she said. “The contemporary artists have done a great curatorial job. They have a whole other unique vision and are sharing it with such enthusiasm.”
“Artists Choose Parrish: Part I,” highlights 20 artists presented in two overlapping installations: Nanette Carter, Pamela Council, Robert Gober, Mary Heilmann, Sam Moyer, Ugo Rondinone, Cindy Sherman, Leslee Stradford, and Michelle Stuart (on view April 16 to August 6); and Tony Bechara, Ross Bleckner, Jeremy Dennis, Eric Fischl, Claude Lawrence, Robert Longo, Eddie Martinez, Enoc Perez, Hank Willis Thomas, Nina Yankowitz, and Joe Zucker (on view April 30 to July 23).
In conjunction with the exhibition, on Saturday, April 29, at 7 p.m., the Parrish will host a talk with artists Nanette Carter, Eric Fischl, Nina Yankowtz and Pamela Council in conversation with Corinne Erni. Admission is $16 ($12 seniors, free for members and students).
“Artists Choose Parrish: Part II” will be on view August 20 to February 4, with participating artists Marina Adams, Alice Aycock, Vija Celmins, Rachel Feinstein, Ralph Gibson, Sheree Hovsepian, Suzanne McClelland, Alix Pearlstein, Ned Smyth, Donald Sultan, John Torreano and Stanley Whitney.
“Artists Choose Parrish: Part III” follows from October 29 to February 18, with participating artists Richard Aldrich, Joanne Greenbaum, Virginia Jaramillo, Rashid Johnson, KAWS, Mel Kendrick, David Salle, Sean Scully and Amy Sillman.
The Parrish Art Museum is at 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill. For more information, visit parrishart.org or call 631-283-2118.
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