Brooks-Park Archive Returns to the South Fork

Parrish takes over after foundation dissolves
James Brooks’s “#13‚” from 1949, above, and Charlotte Park’s untitled gouache on paper from 1952, below, are some of the many gifts to the Parrish Art Museum from the James and Charlotte Brooks Foundation.

The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill announced last week that it had acquired the entire holdings of the James and Charlotte Brooks Foundation, including the art and archives left to establish it.

The foundation was created by James Brooks and Charlotte Park, two leaders of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism and longtime residents of East Hampton. Mr. Brooks died in 1992 and Ms. Park died in 2010. 

After a full inventory of its new collection, the museum will begin work on a survey exhibition dedicated to the Brooks’s work and a related catalogue.

The couple began spending summers in Montauk during the late 1940s after visiting Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock in Springs. After moving their hurricane-ravaged house by barge to Springs in 1956, they became part of the nucleus of the East Hampton artistic community. The styles they developed flowed directly out of their interactions with their neighbors and their own unique takes on abstraction.

Their house and studios are currently being restored and turned into a community center, The Brooks-Park Heritage Project. The property was purchased with funding from East Hampton Town’s community preservation fund, and the restoration is taking place under the stewardship of Peconic Historic Preservation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting significant sites related to the region’s culture and history.

The foundation will dissolve after the Parrish assumes control. The museum stated in a press release that it will “draw upon the foundation’s assets to establish the James and Charlotte Brooks Fund, an endowment to provide support for research, care, and exhibition of works by the two artists, and to underwrite Parrish projects in modern and contemporary art.”

The museum has regularly exhibted the artworks of both artists as part of its permanent collection shows since moving into its new facility in 2012. Their work, often loaned to the Parrish by the foundation, has fit in well with the museum’s other holdings. Frederic M. Seegal, the museum’s board chairman, said,  “James Brooks and Charlotte Park each have a story to tell that, contextualized by the strengths of the permanent collection, together create a narrative that is both intellectually and visually compelling.”

The museum will accept 89 paintings, drawings, and prints by Brooks and Park. John R. Lane, a foundation trustee and the chair of its art committee, advised the museum on its selection. This group will “form the largest, most historically comprehensive and artistically absorbing holdings of their art anywhere,” according to the museum.

The foundation has recently donated 170 works by the artists to the permanent collections of 20 other American museums. The Parrish will sell a number of the gifts, with the foundation’s approval, to endow the James and Charlotte Brooks Fund.