What could be more intriguing than a show where artists select artists?
Such a format allows for us not only to see new artists and their work alongside their jurors, but also to see the combined curatorial vision of the museum and the artists. Putting on an artist-selected exhibition seems particularly fitting for the Parrish Art Museum; as the institutional representation of the vast-reaching yet closely-knit artistic hub that makes up the East End.
Conceived in 2009, the Parrish Art Museum’s Artists Choose Artists show began with 300 online submissions and a panel of artist jurors—Laurie Anderson, Judith Hudson, Mel Kendrick, David Salle, Ned Smyth, Keith Sonnier and Robert Wilson. From that initial group of seven, each chose two; thus including: Don Christensen, Christine Sciulli, Elise Ansel, Carol Hayes, Virva Hinnemo, Koichiro Kurita, Rick Liss, Rossa Cole, Brian Gaman, Tucker Marder and Ezra Thompson.
David Salle’s “Syrie (Yellow),” and “Syrie (Pink),” both 2013, are among the first encounters. Painterly and confident, both versions of Syrie demonstrate Salle’s mastery of the figure in a certain coolness that brushes up against Alex Katz but departs stylistically in that Salle’s zoomed-in and high-contrast figures are both more confrontational and the temperature is much warmer.
In an adjoining gallery, thematically organized around “American Home Life,” we enter a world with a mildly disturbing sound coming from Robert Wilson’s video with performance artist William Pope and a little lamb puppet who hauntingly sings “Mary had a little Me” over and over again, with an extended and off-key “meeeeee” in utter contrast to the crib-mobile-like instrumental. Directly across from the screen is Tucker Marder’s “Mantel,” in which two ducks were photographed in that typical blue-backdrop we all endured for yearbook portraits and placed over a creamy-yellow faux-fireplace mantel. From the mantel upward, shelves expand, making a V-shape; each shelf longer than the one below it, and each one fitting more of these framed photographs. Methodic and structured, one duck’s photographs are aligned on the left and the other on the right. Beneath the mantel is a hooked rug, the kind you see near sinks or near doors, with two ducks on it. The installation is simultaneously very kitsch and entirely original.
Entering another space, a photograph by Ned Smyth, “Portrait 5,” 2013, stuns. One of a series of rock “portraits,” the enlarged, highly defined image of a stone inspires as the mundane (a typical, unpolished granite rock), is revealed in its beauty—a topographic landscape made up of grooves and differences in elevation—simply upon closer observation. Natural materials are mirrored in works by Rossa Cole—whereby found materials, like twigs and sticks, are the media for eco-centric designs such as “Roundhouse Half Timber Frame Eco House,” 2010. The dollhouse size allows for self-envisioning in a home that would rely on solar panels. Mel Kendrick’s sculptures echo the organic shapes in Smyth’s photographs, the use of wood in Cole’s and the black and white/grey palette of Elizabeth Dow’s vertical works. Kendrick’s shapes are studies in positive and negative space. In “Untitled,” 2012, curvilinear negative-space shapes are carved out from a wooden square and the inverted positive image is recreated and stacked right above it. In the positive image, the shapes are painted white, further questioning which is positive and which is negative.
Other compelling works in the exhibition include Koichiro Kurita’s, “Dark Cloud (Nagano, Japan series from Chi Suiki),” 1987, whereby hair-like grass rolls over a hill with fluidity, while ominous clouds move in an opposite direction, creating a moment of suspension along the horizon line, an installation of designs painted on wooden benches by Don Christensen and two spectacular examples of recent neon-light works by Keith Sonnier.
Concurrent with the exhibition is a documentary film in the Lichtenstein Theater showing the artists in their studios—a personal glimpse inside their creative process that enhances the experience of viewing their work on museum walls and ties together the overarching appreciation for the continuum of artistic creation on the East End.
Artists Choose Artists will be on view through January 19, 2014. The Parrish Art Museum is located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. Call 631-283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.