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ARCHIVE/Art Exhibitions

Cool calm of the Parrish Art Museum

Written by Aksel Ritenis
It is paradoxical, on a sultry summer morning in Southampton, New York, land of designer labels and ladies-who-lunch, to walk into the cool calm of the Parrish Art Museum, where the gallery ceilings resemble those of an old railway station, and to view Adam Bartos’ exhibit, Liminal Ground, Long Island Photographs (2009-2011). These are not photos of high society homes or pale sand beaches, but instead, “images of places in between that might well go unrecorded were they not framed with his virtuoso camera.”*

A photograph entitled “Islip, New York” is one example. It pictures a set of stairs that slant up the side of an ordinary white house. A slatted bench tilts nearby, ready to crumple with weight. One window frame has been painted an optimistic Caribbean turquoise, as if the owner began to brighten the place, but gave up. The remainder is ramshackle, abandoned perhaps. I imagine that it is the type of house that sits on a main road, largely ignored, while drivers speed their way to more luxurious destinations. The exhibition title, liminal, comes from a Latin word meaning threshold, a point of entering or beginning. Another word—marginal—comes to mind when examining these sixteen fascinating images, which includes “Martin’s Marine” (pictured below). Each has an untold story.

The second museum gallery displays small black and white photos of New York landmarks, lined up in two rows, one atop the other. The exhibit consists of easily recognizable and imposing structures, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It also features less publicized landmarks, including the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House, circa 1652, one of the earliest wooden constructions in the United States, and the Bowne House (pictured), the oldest surviving dwelling in Queens, which is still at its original site. The photograph that surprised me most wasn’t a building, but rather a 1907 Sidewalk Clock from the Seth Thomas Clock Company that currently resides at 522 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It too has been granted landmark status.

The contrast between the two shows at the Parrish Art Museum—landmark and liminal, storied and unknown—is intriguing. They run through September 4, 2012 and additional information can be found at parrishart.org.

*Quotation courtesy of Parrish Art Museum


Christine Ritenis

New York Arts Correspondent

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Aksel Ritenis

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