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Hamptons Life

Nov 6, 2018 10:21 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Parrish Art Museum Marks Sixth Anniversary In Water Mill With 'Every Picture Tells A Story'

'The Plaza,' a 1995 oil painting by Richard Estes.  COURTESY PARRISH ART MUSEUM/Courtesy of Louis K. Meisel Gallery
Nov 6, 2018 10:21 AM

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Terrie Sultan looked out the wall of windows lining her light-filled office at the Parrish Art Museum and marveled at the view. It was a perfect fall day with that kind of light you see only on the East End at this time of year. The amber hues of the tall grasses separating the museum from the parking lot were punctuated by the changing colors of leaves on the trees beyond.

It’s a wild and wonderful landscape that reminds visitors that much of the work within the building was inspired by views just like this—particularly that light, which has drawn generations of artists to the area and never fails to impress.

“When we moved in here, they told me the grasses would grow to be four feet tall,” she said gazing at the scene. “I couldn’t imagine it at the time.”

That’s just one of many things Ms. Sultan, director of the Parrish Art Museum, couldn’t have imagined when the institution opened the doors of its Water Mill home back in November 2012. Other pleasant surprises have included the numbers of visitors who have flocked to the museum in the past half decade, as well as the amount of new programming that has been initiated and artwork gifted to the institution.

All these components and more will be on full display this weekend when the Parrish celebrates its sixth anniversary in Water Mill with the opening of “Every Picture Tells a Story,” a series of year-long exhibitions highlighting work from the permanent collection. A full slate of events will take place from November 9 to 11, including gallery tours, receptions, a benefit cocktail party, a Spanish-language film screening, and a free community day for families filled with music, art and writing workshops, and a welcoming ceremony by Shane Weeks of the Shinnecock Nation.

But the real star attraction this weekend is the art.

Drawn from the Parrish’s permanent collection of more than 3,000 works, the seven separate exhibitions that make up “Every Picture Tells A Story” include more than 40 recently acquired pieces offering perspective on the many ways in which images carry narrative meaning.

“We decided on ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’ because people are really talking now about personal history, stories, narratives and ways of finding your place in the world through these trains of thought,” Ms. Sultan said. “Even an abstract picture tells a story.”

“There’s something for many with lots of different avenues into the collection,” Ms. Sultan added. “That, generally speaking, is exciting because we hear from people who come and say ‘this is completely different from last year,’ or ‘we didn’t know you had this.’”

“Plus, it’s really fun for us because we get to come up with interesting themes.”

Perhaps none of the exhibitions is more reflective—both literally and figuratively—of the museum itself than “Photorealism,” a collection of large-format photorealistic paintings that dominate the gallery space near the museum’s entrance. Among the pieces on display are Bertrand Meniel’s painting of a family enjoying the view from the Fairmont Monte Carlo and Richard Estes’s creative vision of the Plaza Hotel as seen from a New York City bus, both of which offer compelling perspectives that straddle the line between interior and exterior. The paintings highlight reflections, edges and glass walls in a way that make the boundaries seem impossibly ethereal and practically nonexistent—just like the massive windows found throughout the Parrish that invite the outside in.

Nearby, “After Michelangelo,” three monumental paintings by David Salle, offer a reimagined and updated view of Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel mural at the Vatican. Commissioned in 2004 by Roman art collector Carlo Bilotti and gifted to the Parrish by his widow, Margaret, the paintings were completed in East Hampton, but this is the first time they have been exhibited in the United States.

In all three paintings, Mr. Salle updates the biblical story by including imagery from modern times relating to each theme. In “After Michelangelo, The Creation,” for example, Mr. Salle has added inventions such as electric light and tools to Michelangelo’s original, while “After Michelangelo, The Flood” features images of rescue helicopters, references to Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian tsunami, and Hokusai’s “Great Wave.” Finally, in “After Michelangelo, The Last Judgment” we see missiles, scales of justice and a judge’s gavel superimposed atop the Renaissance master’s work. The disparate and contemporary references in all three paintings speak to the timeless (and even prophetic) nature of the cautionary tales shared in the original mural.

Other exhibits include “Into the Artist’s World: The Photographs of Fred. W. McDarrah,” with 27 photographs taken between 1959 and 1979 of artists such as Jimmy Ernst, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Lee Krasner and Willem de Kooning displayed alongside art by the subjects; “Fairfield Porter Raw: The Creative Process of an American Master” which highlights Porter’s finished and unfinished work as well as several pieces in various stages of development; “William Merritt Chase: The Shinnecock Years” showing work by both Chase and his students, as well as archival photographs of Shinnecock Indian Nation members who worked for the Chase family and the art school; “Louisa Chase: Below the Surface,” 18 paintings and works on paper that offer a view into the inner life of the late artist; and “Black & White,” a collection of abstract paintings and sculpture that explore the nuance between dark and light.

While there is a fair amount of photography featured throughout “Every Picture Tells A Story,” Ms. Sultan stresses that the theme is more directly related to the idea of looking at something through a specific lens in order to decide whether the focus chosen by the artist is deep, shallow or nonexistent.

“What if there’s not a perspective? You have to fill in all the blanks,” Ms. Sultan said. “I say this every year. I think this show is the best one yet. It’s so engaging. The different approaches to art making we can show in these exhibitions is so stimulating in such a positive way.

“We’re talking beauty too,” she added. “There are some really great looking things here—just come and be transformed by the beauty of the work you see.”

In discussing ideas like perspective, view, angles and the way forward, as she marks the Parrish’s sixth anniversary in the Water Mill space it’s clear Ms. Sultan is also considering ways in which the museum’s relationship with the community will grow going forward. Just as the world is much different now than it was five years ago, so to will it be in another five years from now. As the Parrish evolves, not only in terms of technology but what it means in relationship to issues such as diversity, inclusion, access, and social injustice, Ms. Sultan expects to remain tuned-in to ways in which she and her staff can respond effectively.

“What can we expect to reasonably do?” she asked. “This is an art museum, not a social services agency. Are we kidding ourselves in that we can meet some needs? Are there ways to mitigate these needs with transformational events?”

“Our mission and core values didn’t change when we moved. For us, what’s true and self-evident is the power of art to change peoples’ lives,” she added. “Everything we do is built on that.”

Given how far they’ve come in recent years, it would seem that Ms. Sultan and her team are in excellent shape and well-positioned to carry on with the tradition.

“What a great experience this has been so far. The first five years was a start-up, getting used to the building, building the program and the staff.

“Now, on to the next five years.”

“Every Picture Tells a Story” kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, November 9 with a docent-led bilingual tour of the exhibition in English and Spanish, followed by a 6 p.m. cocktail reception and 7 p.m. screening of “Una Mujer Fantástica” (“A Fantastic Women”), the 2017 Chilean film directed by Sebastián Lelio that won the 2018 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The film was guest curated by the Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island (OLA) as part of its multi-venue film festival. The event is free with museum admission.

“Fresh Look 2018 Benefit Cocktail Party” follows on Saturday, November 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and live music. Several Parrish collection artists will also be in attendance including David Salle. Tickets start at $150.

Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. is Community Day at the Parrish with free admission and activities including a welcoming ceremony by Shane Weeks of the Shinnecock Nation, music by Bridgehampton School’s marimba ensemble, and family-friendly art making activities led by Madolin Archer, Grisel Baltazar, Denise Silva Dennis and Erin Simmons. Jen Seft will lead a writing workshop and collection artist Jeremy Dennis will sign copies of his book. Refreshments will also be served.

The Parrish Art Museum is located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. For more information visit parrishart.org or call 631-283-2118.

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