Mickalene Thomas and Racquel Chevremont in front of Kennedy Yanko’s...

Mickalene Thomas and Racquel Chevremont in front of Kennedy Yanko’s "Wading the Storm," 2022, in "Set It Off" at the Parrish Art Museum. Photo Credit: Jon Jenkins Credit: Jon Jenkins

Surprises await at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill this summer.

For starters, there's what appears to be a flag that is actually a stitched labyrinth with a hidden message (Freedom). Then there's art of a Ugandan ancestral figure that is really a conglomeration of cast off objects.

Indeed, the Water Mill museum itself surprises this season. The elegant venue with a broad range of 19th-21st century masterworks has become a hotbed of contemporary artists focusing on social justice, racial and gender equality, wealth disparity, land use and more. It's all about making space and initiating discourse. Reflecting on the Black Lives Matter movement and other calls for equality, curators felt it was time for action. "It is certainly about engaging in conversations, addressing themes that are going on in the world, and including voices that have for a very long time been excluded," said senior curator, Corinne Erni.

'SET IT OFF'

To that end, artist Mickalene Thomas and artistic collaborator, curator and collector Racquel Chevremont, two Black women who work under the apt moniker Deux Femmes Noires were invited to curate a major exhibition. They selected six international Black female artists —Leilah Babirye, Torkwase Dyson, February James, Karyn Olivier, Kameelah Janan Rasheed and Kennedy Yanko — and more than 50 works, some created especially for the exhibit "Set It Off," which is on view through July 24. The title and the theme, said Chevremont, "are about making noise and doing something big and loud." Thomas described the idea behind the exhibition succinctly: "Disruption."

WHAT "Set It Off" through July 24 and "Another Justice: US Is Them" July 24-Nov. 6

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Saturday-Sunday and 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday, Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill

INFO $12, $9 seniors, free students with ID and 17 and younger; 631-283-2118, parrishart.org

WHAT "Faith Ringgold: Jazz Stories"

WHEN | WHERE Through June 26, 12-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, South Etna Montauk Foundation, 6 South Etna Ave., Montauk

INFO Free; southetnamontauk.org

"We want to set off, to ignite and implement new ideas from women who are making work that's unpredictable," Thomas explained, citing large metal sculptures by Yanko that alter a medium traditionally associated with male artists with colorful veils of paint skins that soften edges even while addressing the sustainability of artists' materials. One can be seen in the meadow, off Montauk Highway.

There are photographs, sculptures, installations, and figurative and abstract paintings. "All the works are in conversation with each other, but we also have these individual moments where they're almost like solo shows," Chevremont said.

Thomas noted as surprising, "the power of the dialogue between the works individually, but also collectively, and how each stands on its own as you go through each space. Then you want to go back more than once, and you start finding those connections from one artist to the next."

"I hope," said Chevremont, "that the work affects visitors so that they're thinking about it, and they want to come back again and see them again." Thomas added, "We hope not only you want to go back, but that you're that excited about it, that you're inspired enough to want to bring someone else or tell someone else to go see it."

'JUSTICE' FOR ALL

Late July through early November brings "Another Justice: US Is Them," a group exhibition curated by Erni along with Hank Willis Thomas and For Freedoms, a collective of artists working to inspire civic involvement. For Freedoms' earlier projects utilized billboards across the country, encouraging people to vote. The Parrish will present works by indigenous artists, including locals Jeremy Dennis and Shane Weeks and nationally known artists like Jeffrey Gibson and Marie Watt, on the East End's 62-foot tall Shinnecock Monument billboard.

Inside the galleries, issues of incarceration, visibility, disability, femininity, abuse of power, but also hope and healing, find voice in sculptures, paintings, installations, video and fiber works. "This is really a summer of engagement," said Erni. "The central question is how we can all contribute to building a new society and a more just society?" She added, "We're giving space to things that elicit thought through beauty."

ARTISTIC RIFFS ON JAZZ LEGENDS

Act fast, and you can catch "Faith Ringgold: Jazz Stories" at South Etna Montauk Foundation through June 26th. The nonagenarian artist, author, and living legend presents drawings, prints and her renowned story quilts. When the Museum of Modern Art reopened a few years ago, IT hung Ringgold next to Picasso. The New Museum just honored her with a major retrospective. Now, you can get close to both great art and Jazz greats.

Ringgold grew up in Harlem when Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Count Basie were regularly in the neighborhood. She captures the colors, lines, pulsating rhythms, and vibrancy of sultry singers, nattily dressed dancers, and soulful musicians.

— MARY GREGORY

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