Parrish Marks Five Years in Water Mill

The museum has a full slate of activities and events planned this weekend
Ned Smyth noticed that William Merritt Chase’s Shinnecock landscapes such as this one, painted around 1894, often feature evidence of Long Island’s formation as a glacial moraine.

At year five, the Parrish Art Museum’s headquarters in Water Mill feels both new and established at the same time. Although its sleek and modern interpretation of a potato barn is a far cry from its previous Renaissance Revival building, its lively and varied schedule of programming and exhibitions has fostered the sense that the new building has already been here forever. Further, by cultivating community involvement through its programs, the Parrish’s administration has demonstrated an understanding that merely building it doesn’t necessarily mean “they will come.”

The Parrish’s anniversary celebration this weekend appears to be based on that same assumption, and the museum has a full slate of activities and events planned. In addition to a free community day on Sunday (with activities in the galleries and workshops in wreath making, building with repurposed cardboard, painting, talking stick making, and other projects), one of the centerpieces of the festivities is a members reception on Saturday featuring current artists of the East End speaking about the past and present artists who have works on view in the galleries.

A new installation of works from the permanent collection will feature thematic installations and solo shows of work by James Brooks, William Merritt Chase, and Alan Shields. The museum also invited Rashid Johnson, a New York-based artist with an outisider’s perspective, to choose works from the collection for his own installation. Mr. Johnson has chosen paintings, sculpture, drawings, and photography by artists such as Lynda Benglis, Hans Hofmann, Agnes Martin, Duane Michals, Ray Parker, and others.

Sydney Albertini, Susan Anker, Max Blagg, Michael Combs, Eric Dever, Bill Komoski, Bastienne Schmidt, Ned Smyth, and others will be on hand in the galleries discussing a particular work or an overview of what is in the room.

Mr. Blagg has chosen Mr. Combs’s piece “Spent Cases” from 1998. The piece features a small overturned boat hung from the ceiling with an attenuated swan’s neck falling down to the floor, where its head has settled amidst several spent shell casings. Calling himself a great admirer of Mr. Combs’s work, Mr. Blagg said. “I love his connection to the land and water of Long Island.” Given his own working class background, “I also very much appreciate the fact that he managed to become an artist, despite the fact that such a career choice might be anathema to his peers, especially the hunters among whom he grew up.” The result is a channeling of “his ambivalent feelings about hunting and the general slaughter of wildlife into beautiful art.”

The monumental yet unpretentious quality of Alan Shields’s “Devil, Devil, Love” is what led Mr. Komoski to choose it as his subject. The composition has been built with strips of unprimed canvas stained and sewn together to create an open lattice structure. “Shields playfully undermines the traditional idea of a painting as a stand-in for a window where illusion prevails by creating a thing. It’s as much an object, a kind of flattened sculpture, as it is a painting,” Mr. Komoski said.

With materials as appropriate to painting as to a circus tent, “there’s a lightness to the work, which hangs flat on the wall with no supporting stretcher bars. It feels like you could roll it up to transport it to the next carnival.” Although he met Shields (who died in 2005) only once, Mr. Komoski said he “was struck by his open spirit and fabulous smile; the smile comes through in the work.” 

Mr. Smyth will speak about William Merritt Chase’s Shinnecock landscapes. Instead of talking about style, American Impressionism, or family recreation of the time, he said he will speak about its geology, Long Island as a glacial moraine. “This painting shows a landscape that is the result of a receding glacier that left sand, topsoil, surrounded by sound, bay, and ocean.” Rather than a portrait of a person, “this is a portrait of the earth, shaped over millions of years. I want to connect this to my stone photos in the show, which are objects broken by glaciers as they moved south from the pole and were deposited on the Long Island moraine, and washed for thousands of years by sea and sand. Both our works tell and show the geological history of our planet.” 

The members reception is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include light fare and beverages. Those interested in attending can join the museum as members online or at the event. The weekend begins with a discussion of the Parrish’s building with Cathleen McGuigan, the editor of Architectural Record, and Terrie Sultan, the museum’s director. They will examine how the building has affected the museum’s programs and focus internally, and its external relationship to its direct surroundings and the region. The talk is $12, free for members.

A cocktail party on Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. will benefit the museum and feature the Quintet of the Americas performing “Watercolors,” a piece by Nell Shaw Cohen, who wrote it for the Parrish’s opening in 2012. In addition, some 50 artists associated with the museum will be in attendance and mingling in the galleries while Sonnier and Castle  provides signature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The tickets for this event are $200, $175 for members.

Sunday’s community day will also include haiku writing in the galleries, docent discussions of James Brooks, Shields, and William Merritt Chase, bilingual tours, and a bilingual scavenger hunt. Live music will include Natalia Paruz, a.k.a. the Saw Lady, and the Bridgehampton School Marimba Band. Book signings by Tria Giovan, Michael Halsband, and Brendan Davis will also take place. The event lasts from noon to 4 p.m.

Rashid Johnson, a New York-based artist, selected several works as part of a new installation of the Parrish Art Museum’s permanent collection. Eric Vogel