The summer pace is slow but the area’s museums and galleries are busy and open — offering treats for the eyes and food for thought.
The Princeton University Art Museum has two summer shows on view.
One is “Frank Stella Unbound: Literature and Printmaking,” on view through September 23.
The American abstract artist born in 1936 is perhaps best known for his innovations involving the size of the canvas or plane, colors, media, and materials. But as this exhibition of 41 prints shows, he also tested the limits of the printmaking process and used it as both a way to create finished works and to explore potential expression.
Works created between 1984 and 1999 ranging in size from 6 feet by 4 feet to 2.5 by 5.5 feet fill three rooms and are divided mainly into four thematic sections.
The images are unified by style and their connection to a literary root. As the 1958 Princeton alumnus and minimalist artist — before becoming both expressive and excessive — told Interview Magazine, “Abstraction didn’t have to be limited to a kind of rectilinear geometry or even a simple curve geometry. It could have a geometry that had a narrative impact. In other words, you could tell a story with the shapes. It wouldn’t be a literal story, but the shapes and the interaction of the shapes and colors would give you a narrative sense. You could have a sense of an abstract piece flowing along and being part of an action or activity. That sort of turned me on.”
The first room contains his bright visual interpretations of the Passover song “Had Gadya” and a compilation of Italian folktales whose structure and spirit the painter used to “explore the possibilities of abstraction.”
The exploration goes full force in the central room where the viewer encounters nine large frames bearing images inspired by the American writer Herman Melville’s 1851 novel “Moby-Dick.”
The nine works represent the approach he used in creating 266 whale-inspired works and, as the materials note, “engrosses Stella’s entire artistic practice, including painted reliefs, freestanding sculptures, and fours series of mixed-media prints of ever — increasing technical complexity.”
Eyes really don’t need the text note. One immediately becomes aware of how the large handmade prints are designed to rise towards the viewer — as do the concave surfaces of two works in the “domes” series — or where the edges break to repeat patterns, create layers, and attract the eye in unexpected ways — as in the “decker edge” series.
The final section is “Imaginary Places,” based on the 1980 book “Dictionary of Imaginary Places” by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi.
The fanciful accounts of the geography, culture, and practices of places existing in the human imagination seem the perfect landscape for Stella, who found a rich land for developing abstract compositions.
It is the place where Stella combined the lessons of his previous series and all the printmaking processes in the Western tradition to tell a literary story without words — and take the viewer on a colorful and fanciful journey.
The second PUAM exhibition is “Picturing Protest,” through October 14.
Drawn from Princeton University photography collections, the exhibition reminds viewers of the social protests that helped shape both the freedoms and tensions of contemporary America.
Highlights of the exhibition are also new acquisitions augmenting the museum’s recognized photography collection.
They include photographer John Filo’s work capturing one of the United States’ most tragic moments. The museum describes it as, “Kent State Remembered: A girl screams before the body of a dead student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University in 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators and four persons were reported dead in the disorders, May 4, 1970.”
Filo was a senior involved with the study photography lab at Kent State during the student protests over the Vietnam War. The image shocked the nation and galvanized the antiwar movement. It also inspired a work of art located next to Princeton University Chapel: American sculptor (and New Jersey resident) George Segal’s “In Memory of May 4, 1970, Kent State: Abraham and Isaac,” created originally for Kent State but rejected by its board of trustees as “inappropriate.”
Four new acquisitions from Village Voice photographer Fred W. McDarrah remind viewers of struggles from the not-too-distant past. They include “Demonstration at the Stonewall Inn, New York City, 1969,” considered the match that ignited the Gay Rights Movement; “Demonstration at the Women’s Strike for Equity, New York City, 1970”; “Jose Rodriquez-Soltero Burning American Flag, the Bridge Theater on St. Mark’s Place, New York City, 1966”; and “Barton Silverman Gets Arrested, 1968 Democratic National Convention, August 27, 1968.”
Then there are the newly acquired works from two Life Magazine photographers. Three images by Charles Moore capture various scenes of the 1963 civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama: young protestors evading the police, demonstrators being dragged into custody, and demonstrators soaked by a fire hose. And Gordon Parks is represented with two images from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, with one image being a profile of Rosa Parks. The exhibition is a strong reminder of the price of freedom.
More information: artmuseum.princeton.edu
If you stop in to visit the Princeton University Art Museum, there is some more art just a few steps away.
While the Arts Council of Princeton galleries are busy with summer programs for young people, the organization is still putting a small spotlight on three area artists. Painter and Lawrence High School art instructor Sean Carney and photographer Larry Parsons have a handful of work on exhibition on the second floor of the Princeton Public Library, as part of an ongoing partnership between the council and the library.
Carney’s visual subject is mainly the “places I love,” he says in a statement. That includes familiar locations such as Lambertville Station, New Hope, or other local places that have become his “markers of memories that I share with special people in my life.”
What is not familiar is his technique. “I love painting with Minwax wood stain and a Dremel (a type of rotary saw), it is a process that is mine and mine alone. My paintings look like traditional paintings from a distance, but upon closer inspection you gain a realization that they are not traditional at all. It is that moment of contemplation that drives me to continue my growth and development.”
Princeton-based Parsons is a retired finance professional and member of the Gallery 14 photography collective in Hopewell. His two abstract images use light and form. As he says in a statement, “One of the great loves of my life is making photographic images . . . I love to photograph what I call the ‘Ballet of Life.’ . . . I want to record the feeling of the motion so that the image is blurred by the action. Either way, the image conveys the essence of the rhythm of the ballet.”
Carney and Parsons’ works are on view through September 15.
And outside at the Arts Council of Princeton, look for a sculpture by Gyuri Hollosy, a Titusville resident connected to Grounds For Sculpture.
The solo work seems to blend into the building and was born from a process involving more than sculpture. “By exploring the connection between physical and geometric architecture, music and physics, I translated my scroll drawings into three-dimensional sculpture that eliminated my need for a traditional base and came to realize that such works contained more than one point of reference in regards to motion.” The piece is on view through September 30.
More information: www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.
And at Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street mixed-media collage artist Tracy Coon is presenting her solo show “Surreal Nature.” Mixing original art work, text from vintage books, found paper, and mixed media, the artist looks to explore “nature and themes of lushness, decay, and human interaction within the cycle of life.” The works are on view through September 4.
More information: www.smallworldcoffee.com.
Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton has mixed three solo shows with its ongoing exhibitions and permanent works.
The first is Japanese sculptor Masayuki Koorida’s first major American exhibition. On view in the Museum Building’s two floors and adjacent outdoor spaces, Koorida’s 26 biomorphic works made of steel, marble, and acrylic reflect his attraction to minimalist elegance.
As the 58-year-old Shanghai-based artist said in a recent interview, “My work is considering nature, materials, space, and power. I believe if something is material, it has a power.” And on the first floor of the building nine mainly large and black works that attract with their glossy and shapely surfaces and invite quiet contemplation.
The work was selected by GFS curator Tom Moran, who came across Koorida’s work while visiting China.
John Carl, a Rutgers-trained artist born in Montreal in 1960, is exhibiting in the East and West galleries. The former houses his series of figures forged from Venetian blinds. The other features a GFS-commissioned wall relief, created in cardboard.
Both reflect the artist’s minimalist roots and interest in creating “fine” art with discarded or inexpensive materials
About his work, Carl says, “My work has always considered the visual world as a vast, shared network, which we are invited to engage with and inflect.”
New Jersey-based artist Michael Rees is the third artist. His “Synthetic Cells” is being billed by GFS as “an unparalleled dialogue between object, perception, and reality. His newest sculptures challenge the viewer to question how the boundaries of our physical and digital experiences are converging.”
Set in another West Gallery area the work consists of six brightly colored and floating sculptured acrylic cubes with four bearing images and two 2-D wall works that digitally interact with the applications embedded in mobile computers to generate an animated computer image to augment or complete the physical work.
Though the intended playfulness seems undermined by the practice — GFS personnel warn not to touch the objects and instruct visitors on how the exhibit works — the idea seems consistent with Rees’ concept of exploring the boundaries of art and the use of technology.
More information: www.groundsforsculpture.org.
The Trenton City Museum’s current exhibition, “Airing Out the Attic,” has some strong pluses despite a name that suggests something old and dusty. It shows how important an organization is to preserving a region’s cultural history.
The exhibition created to celebrate the Trenton City Museum’s 40 years is proof positive of the capital city’s strong visual art tradition and features works by artists involved with the School of Industrial Arts, Trenton Junior College, and Mercer County Community College. Artists representing various Trenton arts circles and involvement with the museum’s annual Ellarslie Open (named after the museum’s 19th-century mansion) are also on view.
Among the approximately 80 paintings, photographs, and sculptures are some of the longstanding artists-teachers who helped shape a movement. That includes noted the mid-20th century’s Industrial Arts School instructor George Bradshaw and today’s nationally known artist and retired Mercer County Community College art instructor Mel Leipzig.
Also noteworthy is the presence of a work by watercolorist Tom Malloy, named by former mayor Doug Palmer as the Dean of Trenton Artists in recognition of his dedication to painting the city’s buildings and streets as others moved away. A Trenton City Museum gallery bears his name.
Other well known and accomplished artists who came from the city or participated in Trenton art circles include painters Robert Sakson, Marge Chavooshian, Marguerite Doernbach, Dallas Piotrowski, and Tom Kelly.
And let’s not forget the strong artists who were also active in the building of the arts in the region. That includes Mary Yess, the first president of the Trenton Artists Workshop Association and founding director of Artworks; Janet Purcell, the longtime visual arts columnist for the Times of Trenton; Molly Merlino, an arts advocate and volunteer who was married to New Jersey State Senator and Senate President Joe Merlino; and Ben Whitmire, an early Trenton City Museum director.
Incidentally, Whitmire also appears in a panting by Bucks County artist Elizabeth Ruggles. Former museum director Brian Hill can also be found in a study by Leipzig.
Over all it is a city celebrating the region’s art.
More information: www.ellarslie.org.
Other exhibitions at various venues include:
The Lakefront Gallery at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton’s “Mel & Leon.”
Mel is the previously mentioned Mel Leipzig, an 83-year-old Trenton resident whose work is in numerous state and national collections, including the Whitney. Leon is 41-year-old Leon Rainbow, widely known for his street art and murals.
Despite their ages and backgrounds, both share a commitment to creating contemporary art and have interacted in the creation of the Trenton art community — with Leipzig creating a series of area graffiti and street artists. It is vibrant with color and seamless mixture of traditions and techniques.
The exhibition organized by the Princeton Photography Club is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week and on view through September 5. The hospital is located at One Hamilton Place, Hamilton. www.princetonphotoclub.org.
The D&R Greenway Land Trust’s gallery at the Johnson Education Center is hosting HomeFront’s ArtSpace project’s exhibition “Healing in Nature.”
Designed as a project to confront and alleviate homelessness, HomeFront’s arts project has engaged clients experiencing difficult life situations in the act of creating of visual art.
The results are affecting and captivating as demonstrated by such works as Kimberly Lennon’s “Home in Reach,” a hand supporting a birdhouse with a heart-shaped entrance, and Nashea Flowers’ dream-like “Moon and Birch Tree.”
Poetry also appears in some of the poems and in an occasional statement like the one attributed to Janiqua that asks, “Will I fall or will I float?”
Healing in Nature, on view August 1 through 31, in D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center, 1 Preservation Place, Princeton. Free admission. Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A reception with the artists is Tuesday, August 28, 2 to 3 p.m. www.drgreenway.org.
Artworks Trenton is presenting “Dramatic Irony,” a socially and politically charged visual dialogue created by Trenton artists Tamara Torres and Phil McConnell. It, along with Georgia, native Andre Terrell Jackson’s “Pride and Prejudice: Examining Queer and Color Narrative” runs through September 8, with a related panel discussion on Friday, August 24, 6 to 7 p.m., Free. www.artworkstrenton.org.
Mercer County Community College’s James Kerney Gallery in downtown Trenton is presenting Philadelphia and New Jersey-based photographer Ryann Casey’s “Loss Event.” The exhibition is part of Casey’s ongoing series focusing on the U.S. National Park system and explores “personal loss and environmental degradation through the filter of memory and grief.” A closing reception with the artist and MCCC photography instructor is set for Thursday, September 6, 5 to 7 p.m. www.mccc.edu/community_gallery_jkc.shtml.
And the BSB Gallery, also in downtown Trenton, has recently opened Jamel Shabazz’ “Love is the Message.” The Brooklyn-based photographer was cited by the New York Times for his “epochal work that explores the power of style, fashion, music and culture to uplift and enrich urban life.” In addition to the exhibition continuing through September 22 the gallery will host a reception on Saturday, August 25, 5 to 9 p.m., and an artist’s talk on Saturday, September 8, 3 to 4 p.m. Gallery hours are Thursday to Saturday from, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 143 East State Street, Trenton. www.bsbgallery.com.