There was something fresh and exciting in the air in Southampton Village Friday night at the opening exhibition for Southampton Center, the new non-profit arts center run by the village at the former Parrish Art Museum on Jobs Lane.
The art on display is cutting edge: Each of the three main rooms in the hall is devoted to one of three innovative artists, each using unusual media to focus on social and environmental themes. The collaborative spirit is evident: the arts center has already formed a partnership with Hamptons International Film Festival to hold screenings of independent films all summer on the lawn and in the arts center’s theater. And the price for the broad range of programs in the center’s inaugural season is just right: Free.
After years of concern over what would happen to the iconic art museum when the Parrish left town, it appears the village has stepped up to its new stewardship role: the building is freshly painted, the gardens seem spruced up and the interior space has been fitted out to suit the needs of the complex opening show.
The large central entry gallery is devoted to a stunning display of the work of Diane Tuft, a photographer who examines glaciers using ultraviolet and infrared ranges of the spectrum. Ms. Tuft’s photographs, which span 2001 to 2008, show the icebergs of Disko Bay in Greenland and the glaciers of Langjökull and Snaefellsjökull in Iceland in a light seldom seen.
Hamptons International Film Festival found the perfect film to pair with Ms. Tuft’s exhibit: After the opening, they held a well-attended screening of the award-winning 2012 film “Chasing Ice,” about photographer James Balog’s chronicle of the rapid melting of Arctic ice due to climate change.
In the second room of the gallery, artist Bentley Meeker uses lasers refracted onto the walls through crushed water bottles (from water that she’d consumed during the spring of 2012), to create an otherworldly, entirely enveloping sensory experience.
The theater at the back of the gallery is devoted to artist David Michalek’s “Slow Dancing,” a series of 43 video portraits of dancers, each taken using a high speed, high definition camera that records at 1,000 frames per second (average film records 30 frames per second), to capture five seconds of a dance, replayed in slow motion.
Each film is displayed on one of three different screens in a stunning tryptic in which dancers of different styles, of different cultures and genders, and wearing an array of different costumes from gowns to a simple pair of boxer briefs, are juxtaposed alongside one another.
The tone in the room was reverential — though there was no music, visitors to the opening sat hushed, watching the nearly imperceptible movements of the dancers, intently waiting to see what would happen next.
There was easily the same amount of optimism in the building for what Southampton Center has in store for us in the months to come.
The opening show is on view through Aug. 5 and the gallery is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily. More information on this season’s free programming at Southampton Center is available here.