Midcentury collectivism on Long Island





One of the good things about art history is that it is always being rewritten. In the case of the New York School, that self-described Greatest Generation of midcentury artists, newer histories have moved past the singular, heroic-figure narrative to emphasize the era’s inherent collectivism and internationalism, and the presence of women — and not just as wives or lovers.

“Esteban Vicente: Portrait of the Artist,” at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, starts with one artist, but quickly — and thankfully — opens up into one of these broader, more inclusive chapters. Vicente (1903-2001), a Spanish-born artist who lived most of his life in New York, was best known for his collages, and a big red abstract-floral one greets visitors at the entrance. A watercolor by his contemporary Philip Pavia, “Freefall No. 2” from 1959, hangs nearby, however, turning the installation immediately into a dialogue.

The first room focuses not just on collectivity, but also on what a wall label calls “connectivity”: artists gathering casually in the 1940s at a cafeteria in Greenwich Village and eventually forming the Club, which met for both social purposes and panel discussions centered on philosophy, music, poetry, literature and film....

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