Parrish Presents Architecture as Art

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"TWA Flight Center in JFK International Airport (Queens, New York), 1964" by Balthazar Korab (Courtesy Korab Image, Christian Korab, Minnesota).

When guest curator Therese Lichtenstein moves from gallery to gallery, surveying the 57 photographs spanning almost 90 years, they feel alive to her. They feel dynamic.

As alive and dynamic as the Parrish Art Museum — a fitting, and poetic, place to debut the groundbreaking exhibition, “Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture” on Sunday, considering the museum itself inspired it.

“There was something about the simplicity, the elegance, the minimalism and the way the light was coming in through the skylights and created this changing surface on the paintings that were being displayed. I was just so moved — I mean, really moved,” Lichtenstein said. “After spending so much time at the old Parrish over the years, which is a fantastic building, this was so different. This was so other. There was a relationship between the building and the grounds and the artist studios and barns on the East End. That interested me.”

Through her research, Lichtenstein learned that Parrish architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron once commissioned Thomas Ruff to photograph a number of their projects — to see what the buildings would look like as art, she explained.

“It’s interesting to think about how perceptions get formed,” she said, “as they’re mediated through imagery.”

The exhibition explores just that: the relationship between architecture, photographer and the viewer, she said, and how photographs affect the understanding of a built environment, as well as social and personal identities.

It is the first of its kind.

“The Night View, 1934/1974” by Berenice Abbott.

“There have been exhibitions obviously exploring architecture and photography, but I think the focus of this one is to not create a linear, reductionist, moving-across-time-in-a-chronological-manner concept,” she said. “I’ve juxtaposed images from different periods and even images from the same period to create a dynamic experience for the spectator, so you start thinking about the images on various levels.”

Ranging from the 1930s to present day, “Image Building” brings together work by 21 artists, from the renowned to the unknown to the emerging — names such as modern architectural photographers Berenice Abbott, Samuel H. Gottscho, and Julius Shulmanto, to the next generation, including Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Luigi Ghirri and Stephen Shore.

Contemporary photographers such as Iwan Baan, Hélène Binet, James Casebere, Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky and Candida Höfer are also on view, as well as Thomas Ruff himself, among others.

Their work is thematically divided into three categories — Cityscapes, Domestic Spaces and Public Places — creating a dialogue between the past and the present, Lichtenstein said.

“It’s not just about how architecture changes, but how the photography changes and allows the viewer to reflect in new ways about the impermanence of it all, and having a dialogue with the past in a way that opens up to a subjective response, a psychological response, a social response, a formal response,” she said. “It operates on multiple levels and it’s not a didactic exhibition. Even though it’s arranged according to three themes, the themes themselves are kind of open. They’re not fixed. When you move through the galleries, they’re generally within those categories, but you start hopefully having connections between the areas.” 

“Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture” will be on view from Sunday, March 18, through June 17 at the Parrish Art Museum, located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. For more information and a full list of programming, please call (631) 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.


“Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture” may open with a members-only reception on Saturday at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, but there are plenty of public programs over the next month to sate any artistic appetite.

Opening program for Members and Invited Guests

Saturday, March 17, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Guest curator Therese Lichtenstein, writer and contributor to the exhibition catalogue, Marvin Heiferman, and Parrish Director Terrie Sultan will give an introductory talk about the exhibition.

TALK: Inter-Sections: The Architect in Conversation

James Casebere on Constructed Photography

Friday, April 6, at 6 p.m.

Artist and photographer James Casebere will speak about his pioneering work that has established him at the forefront of artists working with constructed photography.

TALK: Inter-Sections: The Architect in Conversation

Iwan Baan and William Menking

Saturday, April 14, at 5 p.m.

Architectural photographer Iwan Baan and The Architect’s Newspaper Editor-in-Chief William Menking will discuss how a photographer’s aesthetic choices can imbue buildings with feeling and meaning.

TALK: Inter-Sections: The Architect in Conversation

Flattened Space

Friday, April 20, at 6 p.m.

Architect Lee Skolnik, photographer Ralph Gibson, and guest curator Therese Lichtenstein will explore movement, memory, and the peripheral vision in architectural photography in the exhibition gallery.

The Parrish Art Museum is located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. For more information, please call (631) 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.

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