The works of late Bridgehampton painter Esteban Vicente, who was among the first American abstract artists, are on display at for the Southampton Village museum's first exhibition of the year.
"Esteban Vicente: Portrait of the Artist," which opened Saturday, includes about 24 artworks by Vicente (1903-2001) and numerous other artworks made by friends, artists he exhibited with and his students.
Exhibiting artists include Chuck Close, Salvador Dali (1904-1989), Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), Alfonso Ossorio (1916-1990), Gertrude Green (1904-1956), Balcomb Green (1904-1991), Larry Rivers (1923-2002) and others.
The show also features two walls of photographs made by Laurie Lambrecht. Photographs depict Vicente in his Bridgehampton studio and garden where he lived with his wife, Harriet, from 1964 to his death in 2001, according to the Parrish.
The exhibition launched Saturday with a panel discussion led by Alicia Longwell, the organizer and the museum’s Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator. Longwell discussed Vicente’s life and work with Lambrecht and Susan Crile, an artist and former art student of Vicente; Crile has a drawing in the exhibition.
Before the trio began the discussion, the audience heard from the artist himself in a documentary clip. The film, “Portrait of an Artist” (2007), put Vicente front and center discussing his art, philosophies, artistic process and his methods as an educator.
“Stretching canvas is work,” Vicente said near the beginning of the film. “Painting is not work for me. Painting is to paint.”
In the footage, Vicente described arranging his canvas into “three different positions” with marks to define the space. Color and composition followed from these delineations, he said. He was influenced heavily by the colors found in the garden he planted at his Bridgehampton home, he said.
As part of the Parrish’s exhibition, the film runs in its entirety on a continual loop. The documentary features interviews with Vicente in his studio, his home and working with university art students.
Vicente was an integral member of the first generation of the New York School painters and the first American abstract artists, according to exhibition information. Further, he was the only Spanish-born artist to be an inner part of the group. The exhibition, in part, is meant to examine his art 10 years after his death.
The exhibition is also a way for the Parrish to present some of its collection and highlight exhibition possibilities for when the museum's new facility, which is currently under construction in Water Mill, is completed and selections from the permanent collection can remain on view, said museum director Terrie Sultan during the panel introduction.
The Vicente show at the Parrish focuses on his vivid abstract paintings, a few drawings and several small wooden sculptures Vicente referred to as “toys” or divertimientos. Artwork comes from collections held by the Parrish, the Harriet and Esteban Vicente Foundation, private collectors and the Grey Gallery.
A traveling sister show is currently on view at New York University’s Grey Gallery in Manhattan. That show, "Concrete Improvisations: Collages and Sculpture" by Esteban Vicente, opened on Jan. 11. It runs through Mar. 26 and includes 60 works on paper and 20 “toys” made from left-over wood and debris in Vicente’s studio. These objects were not made for exhibition but were another way the artist worked with form and color, according to a Grey Gallery release. The show is viewable online.
"Concrete Improvisations" is the first time Vicente’s collages and sculptures are presented together in a “major American museum exhibition,” according to a Grey Gallery release. The show continues at museums in Dallas, Texas and Segovia, Spain after it closes. The show includes artwork from the Parrish's collection.
Taken together, viewers can become acquainted with Vicente’s full range of work and discover the man known as “an artist’s artist,” Sultan said.
"" remains on display at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton Village through April 10.