Parissh Art Museum – Water Mill, New York

Louisa Chase

Terrible Twos 2011

On one of my many trips to New York I had the opportunity to visit the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, on the east end of Long Island. I was really impressed with the huge collection of works from artists such as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and William Merritt Chase, along with works from a truly stunning number of other prominent artists totalling to a collection of at least 3000 works of art. The majority of the art pieces displayed were from the 19th century to the present, and quite a few of their pieces are from contemporary artists living on Long Island.

During the exhibition I attended, some of the works of Louisa Chase were on display. Louisa Chase was born in 1951 and passed in 2016. She was a painter and printmaker. The majority of her work is in the field of fine art commonly identified as neo-expressionist, a style of modern/post-modern art that began to emerge in the 50s but didn’t reach mass popularity until the 70s. This style didn’t remain popular for long however and declined in its widespread appeal by the mid 80s. I saw a fair number of her pieces, but the one that really stood out the most to me was her “Terrible Twos – 2011” This bright and colorful work of art has a distinct 80s aesthetic that has recently become more popular. It’s definitely an abstract work that doesn’t directly represent any material object, and instead is intended to represent an idea or a feeling. In the background there are some red and blue scribbles on a pink field, and in the foreground there are blue squares covered with the word ‘no’ written over it twice. I spent a lot of time looking at it, trying to understand the message. I feel like it must represent some kind of rejection, but whether that’s based on rejecting something or being rejected, I’m not sure.

The other piece that got my attention was “Untitled -1954” by Leon Polk Smith. This American painter lived from 1906 to 1996, and the majority of his work would be described as geometric, abstract, and minimalist. These styles of art started to gain popularity in the early 60s, and are of course still popular today.These two untitled works are essentially a pair. One is a positive shape that would fit into the negative space of the other. Admittedly the work is rather simple. But that’s why I like it! Artwork doesn’t have to represent something literal for it to be appreciated. You can appreciate it for its originality and creativity, and it’s ability to provoke thought and discussion.

I was very pleased with my time at Parissh Art Museum. There were so many exciting things to view I barely had enough time to absorb it all. Aside from a large interior space they also have a huge outdoor area dotted with hundreds of sculptures. If you have the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend it.

Leon Polk Smith

Untitled 1954

Perfect Match, as always