Art in Town

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Art In Trenton

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Corrections or additions?

Art by Adkins: Re-Creations

This article by Pat Summers was published

in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 18, 1998. All rights reserved.

If I were a third grader who didn’t know how to look

at art, I’d want to be in Terry Adkins’ tour group. If I were an adult

who felt uncomfortable talking about art, I’d join the same group.

In fact, that’s exactly what I did.

On Sunday, February 8, Adkins led an ever-growing group of children

and adults through "Distant Mirrors," his new exhibition of

30 sculptures at the New Jersey State Museum. Like the Pied Piper,

he attracted more people as he went along: laughing, inviting

opinions,

encouraging visitors to touch the works, and generally appearing as

arresting as his work. For more than an hour, some 30 people got up

close and personal with the art he describes as, "found materials

and objects with an African-American presence."

"I take the things that society considers useless and throws away,

and give them a new life by re-creating and re-combining them into

works of art," Adkins tells his group. "So as we walk through

you’ll see things you might see on streets in your cities that would

normally make it to a junkyard or a landfill. I consider what I do

to be rescuing these things, keeping the world a lot less junked-up

so that you won’t inherit this stuff as junk, but in a more

spiritually

nourishing way as works of art."

The look of the Adkins’ exhibition is starkly spare, in keeping with

the "minimalist" descriptor sometimes applied to his work.

Sculptures, most quite large and many with metallic elements, are

spread out on floor and walls — a dramatic look that also

facilitates

viewing without crowding. Two pieces that are already part of the

museum’s permanent collection, "Southern Railroad" and

"Rattler,"

are on view nearby.

Tall, dark, and incontestably cool — starting with a signature

black beret and wire rimmed glasses, and including an unstructured

olive-brown jacket over a turtleneck, black leather vest and wide

wale cords — Adkins made his work accessible, in a comfortable,

non-pedantic way.

Take, for instance, a late-add to the exhibition: "Furn,"

with components listed as "steel, enamel, owl." Intriguing

as its ingredients may sound, they don’t begin to suggest the impact

of this 20-foot long, nearly 8-foot high horizontal piece, which in

its earlier incarnation was a vertical store sign for "Joe’s

Furniture,"

at Broad and Perry streets in Trenton.

Adkins spotted it six months ago and intended it to be part of his

state capital show, but it was not until a few days before his gallery

tour that he was able to arrange for its safe removal and

installation.

Though it represents a local business where a lot of Trenton’s

African-American

residents bought their furniture, or, as Adkins views it, "a place

of dispersal," the erstwhile sign now suggested a long black train

and a steam roller to those in his group.

"All these images are equally valid. I welcome any associations

that anyone might have," says the artist. So from the start of

the walk Adkins first seeks, and then accepts, the impressions of

kids and grown-ups in the group. The white owl, he explains, is

regarded

in some cultures as housing the spirit of a dead person — in this

case, that of his family member, Leonard Williams Esq., a native of

Trenton and one of those to whom he has dedicated "Furn."

The group visit to "Furn" typifies the tour: Adkins swings

out ahead, commenting on the piece and asking what it reminds people

of. All the while, he gestures animatedly and laughs easily and

heartily.

Best of all, he seems wholly unthreatened and un-didactic. He says

he tries to build "many layers of meaning" into each piece.

That way, "there’s an entry door for everyone."

Many of Adkins’ sculptures deal with time and space, as well as light,

sounds in general, and music and musicians in particular. In the

course

of the walk, he alludes to a diversity of topics — Cain and Abel,

the Underground Railroad, the cotton industry in America, jazz

musician

Thelonious Monk, Persian words for water lilies, be-bop, spirituality,

work songs, the Brotherhood of Pullman Porters. Of his piece

"Vows"

(the title) and "vowels" (the letter "E" which is

part of the same work), he says, "Some words sound the same but

mean different things. I’m a musician too; I play the saxophone, so

I’m very sensitive to the way things sound, particularly the titles

of my works."

Our tour group arrives at "Play Heavy:" "An

octopus — right. Tires — right! Car wash — right. shower

head — right. Keep it comin’," says Adkins. "Spider,

braids,

jellyfish — right! right! I’m happy you have so many associations

for this. That’s the first way that you can enter into something —

construct meaning out of it for yourself. There is no wrong

answer."

Discussing the value of his art to urban kids, Adkins says, "I

hope it helps them look at their surroundings differently and see

(besides consumerism and decay) the beauty in ordinary things. It’s

a very direct, tactile experience, even though it’s cerebral too.

And who knows, it may prompt a couple of them to pursue art as a

career."

Often, the artist talks about how he arrived at a finished piece.

"That’s what I was thinking of when I made it, but everything

you said is OK too. Whatever you see in it is just as right as

whatever

I see in it," he repeatedly says, and seems to mean it. This a

far cry from classroom analysis of literature — not to mention

much writing about art. Those in his entourage feel more and more

comfortable, free to look at the works freshly and respond honestly:

"Now doesn’t this look like a heavy [punching] bag that boxers

train with?" asks Adkins. "Noooope!" says a little girl

who’s been gaining confidence. (The work is "Baritone

Champion,"

and it’s dedicated to Jack Johnson, who early in this century became

the first black heavyweight champion.)

What turns found metal, wood, glass, and other materials into

artworks?

How did "Nun," for instance, emerge from what may originally

have been a ship’s smokestack? Adkins cites two requirements for

anything

he picks up: it must be something he can carry, and it must be able

to be transformed into something else. "I always try to keep some

part of a thing’s original function to keep it alive and speaking

about part of its history."

Describing his studio as "a big think tank," he says it’s

full of found objects waiting to be made into works of art. More

precisely,

about a third of its space is taken up with "found

objects-with-potential."

Another third is his work space, and the last part houses finished

pieces.

And no, all space considerations to the contrary, Adkins says he

"hardly

ever" recycles finished pieces into new sculptures. "Once

they get a title, they’re like members of my family. To make them

into something else would violate them." So, although it’s no

dainty little thing, "Furn" will go back to his studio and

probably be stored in the hall, where Adkins just hopes "no

jitterbugs

with spray cans get to it."

Adkins’ first teachers were nuns who still wore traditional habits.

He remembers, not-too-regretfully, that he "was always giving

them trouble." He says his first sight of the arched black

smokestack

reminded him of a nun’s headgear, and then, in turn, he recalled the

stiff bib that was also part of traditional dress.

North Carolina and New York State have been the chief sources of

Adkins’

sculpture materials, with many pieces in this show originally coming

from New York’s Forst meat-packing plant. Glass paperweights that

once promoted "Forst Foremost Smoked Turkey" figure

prominently

in "Hosts." "Forst Mosaic" is comprised wholly of

Forst labels, thickly bunched in a big circle and looking from a

distance

just like the shag carpet one child suggested during the tour. Most

macabre is "Fall Mute," a giant steel rack with rows of iron

meat hooks, each one spearing an apple. "I wanted to suggest

alternatives

to slaughtering animals," Adkins told the group. Then he adds,

"Some of these apples are ready to be replaced," and he turns

one fruit to hide its soft spot.

The "wedding of piano insides and organ insides

in a vertical format," is the way Adkins describes one

indigo-painted

sculpture. Named (and colored) for "Crepuscle," or twilight,

the piece is dedicated to jazz composer Thelonious Monk, who has used

that word in one of his own titles. "Perpetual Choir," a round

wooden piece riddled with holes and mounted perpendicular to the wall,

is a dodecagon, or polygon with 12 equal sides. You could make your

own dodecagon by connecting the 12 numbers on a clock face, he tells

his companions. This work has to do with water, music, and time.

Born in Washington, D.C., 45 years ago, Adkins says he knew he showed

artistic talent when on gift occasions, "I got `Da Vinci’s Last

Supper’ to paint by number and they [his four siblings] got

trucks."

He earned degrees at Fisk University (BS), Illinois University (MS),

and University of Kentucky (MFA). Though he began as a printmaker,

he has largely moved away from that field and has exhibited his

sculptures

since 1980. With his wife, Merele, and three-year-old son, Titus,

he lives and works in Brooklyn, and teaches undergraduate and graduate

sculpture studio courses at SUNY/New Paltz.

Adkins credits Karen Cummins, curator of education at the State

Museum,

for these weekend gigs: three consecutive Sundays of walks and talks

and workshops for kids (or in the case of the walking tour, "young

people" of all ages). The idea is exemplary and to all

appearances,

its execution is a success. (Next, please, how about a free handout

— even a leaflet with a couple of pictures and some text —

that young visitors can take away as a memento of the museum show.)

At his final session, Sunday, February 22, Adkins will teach children

to make a "bull roarer," a musical instrument with visual

appeal that is indigenous to Africa, Australia, and South America.

"Thanks for coming! Come back next week," Adkins calls

enthusiastically

to his departing audience.

— Pat Summers

Terry Adkins: Distant Mirrors, New Jersey State

Museum ,

205 West State Street, Trenton, 609-292-6464. Exhibition continues

to March 22. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45

p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Free.

Terry Adkins Workshop, New Jersey State Museum,

205 West State Street, Trenton, 609-292-6464. The artist and jazz

musician helps kids make a Bull Roarer. Preregister. Free. Sunday,

February 22, 1 to 3 p.m.

Top Of Page
Art in Town

Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street,

609-924-8777.

Wood-fired figurative ceramic sculpture by Jim Jansma. To February

27.

DeLann Gallery, Princeton Meadows Shopping Center,

Plainsboro,

609-799-6706. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" a group show

featuring paintings by David E. Gordon, Ed Hicks, Sydney Neuwirth,

and Virginia Wise, with sculpture by Doug McIlvaine. To March 18.

Gallery hours are Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Gratella Gallery at the Forrestal, 100 College Road East,

609-452-7800. "Purely Abstract," an exhibition of abstract

watercolors, by Pat San Soucie. To March 14. Gallery hours are 10

a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The Jewish Center of Princeton, 435 Nassau Street,

609-921-0100.

"Scenes from Israel" by photographers Gilda Aronovic, Robert

Garber, Jerry Kurshan, Maia Reim, Aviva Reim, and Robin Wallach. To

March 14.

Marsha Child Contemporary, 20 Nassau Street, Suite 210,

609-497-7330. "The Enchanted Forest," paintings and drawings

by Polish-born Elzbieta Sikorska. Her lush compositions portray an

exotic, dreamlike world of stately trees and quiet streams in an

environment

filled with the sense of a life force that is both ancient and

universal.

To March 1. Gallery hours are Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.;

Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; and by appointment.

Medical Center at Princeton, Witherspoon Street,

609-497-4192.

Beth Parsell and Carlene Kuhn. To March 19. Show is open daily, 8

a.m. to 7 p.m.

Stuart Country Day School, Norbert Considine Gallery,

609-921-2330. "Outputting," an exhibition of student art made

on computers, with video and movie clips made with Hyper Studio.

"Art

is not about itself, it’s about other things," says gallery

director

Madelaine Shelleby, "it’s about bringing things together, making

connections." To March 1. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday,

8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Triumph Brewing Company, 138 Nassau Street, 609-924-7855.

Abstract works in acrylic on wood by Kate Hammett. To March 30.

Top Of Page
Art On Campus

Art Museum, Princeton University, 609-258-3788. "Emmet

Gowin: Aerial Photographs," 30 images of the American West. Also

"Photographs by Robert Adams" and "Photographs by Thomas

Joshua Cooper." All three shows by masters of the contemporary

landscape continue to March 22. Free.

The permanent collection features a strong representation of Western

European paintings, old master prints, and original photographs.

Collections

of Chinese, Pre-Columbian Mayan, and African art are considered among

the museum’s most impressive. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10

a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours are given every

Saturday at 2 p.m. Free.

Not housed in the museum but part of the collection is the John B.

Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection of 20th-century sculpture, with works

by such modern masters as Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso

and George Segal located throughout the campus.

Bernstein Gallery, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton

University,

609-258-4790. Bill Gregory, an exhibition of 40 photographs including

portraiture and works made during travels in this country and abroad.

To February 28.

Firestone Library, Princeton University, 609-258-3184.

"The Search for Latin America: Sources at Princeton," an

innovative

exhibition of 200 items ranging from original manuscripts, rare books,

maps, photographs, correspondence, coins, and artifacts traces a

thematic

history of the region from Pre-Columbian times to the 20th century.

To April 13. Gallery hours are weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends

noon to 5 p.m.

Among the treasures of the library’s special collections is a Mayan

conch shell with inscribed hieroglyphic text that constitutes its

earliest dated American manuscript. Also in the show, the first Latin

edition of Columbus’s letter announcing his discover, dated 1493,

as well as the only copy in America of Vespucci’s letter to the King

of Spain. One case of items come from Indian sources, and another

deals with contemporary Latin American organizations and the struggle

for human rights.

School of Architecture, Princeton University,

609-258-3741.

An exhibit on the career of Aris Konstantinidis (1913-1993), one of

the most significant figures in postwar Greek architecture. To March

6.

Gallery at Mercer County College, Communications Center,

Second Floor, West Windsor, 609-586-4800, extension 3588. "James

J. Colavita Retrospective," one of five area shows celebrating

the late sculptor’s work. To February 26. Gallery hours are Monday

through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Wednesday and Thursday

evenings

from

Rider University Art Gallery, Lawrenceville, 609-896-5168.

"James J. Colavita Retrospective," celebrating the life and

work of the late sculptor, a Lawrenceville native and professor of

sculpture and ceramics. Each of the shows highlights a different facet

of the artist’s career. To March 8. Gallery hours are Monday to

Friday,

2 to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m.

Top Of Page
Other Galleries

The Artful Deposit, 201 Farnsworth Avenue, Bordentown,

609-298-6970. Showing works by Boris Vujovich, Kathy Shumway-Tunney,

Eric Sparre, and Dan Finaldi through February. Gallery hours are

Thursday,

Friday, Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.

The Eurogallery, 37 West Broad Street, Hopewell,

609-466-6885.

Bronze sculptures, paintings, and porcelain by Hungary’s Laszlo

Ispanky,

whose works can be found in the Vatican, the Smithsonian, and the

White House. Also bronzes by Charles McCollough, and paintings by

Malcolm Kornegay. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m,

Sundays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Mariboe Gallery, Peddie School, Hightstown, 609-490-7550.

Krista Van Ness, mixed-media assemblages by the Pennington artist.

Van Ness explores the possibilities of illusion by placing common

objects in exaggerated and provocative situations. Her glass,

"stage

set" environments show scenes of insects and small animals

participating

in fantastical rituals. To February 27.

Montgomery Cultural Center, 1860 House, 124 Montgomery

Road, 609-921-3272. A a group show by 13 artists of the Watchung Arts

Center who call themselves the New Art Group. Their name is taken

from the turn-of-the-century Viennese group that included Egon

Schiele.

Their works range from photography to surrealistic tableaux. In the

Upstairs Gallery, a multimedia group show by the 1860 House

Professional

Artists Group. Both shows to February 28. Gallery hours are Tuesday

through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2

p.m.

Plainsboro Public Library, Municipal Complex, 641

Plainsboro

Road, 609-275-2897. Seow-Chu See, an exhibit of calligraphy,

watercolor,

and Chinese brush painting. To February 26.

A woman of many interests — biology, physics, mathematics, and

Buddhism to name a few — See works for Merrill Lynch in Plainsboro

and lives in West Windsor. A graduate of London’s Imperial College

of Science and Technology, she has been winning prizes in Chinese

arts since childhood. She learned the Lin-Nan style of painting from

Madam Chiang Chao-Mei and contemporary Chinese painting from Wu Yi

of China.

Printmaking Council of New Jersey, 440 River Road,

Somerville,

908-725-2110. Birds of a Feather, a collaborative book project by

39 artist members of the printmaking council featuring wood block

prints, etchings, photographs, serigraphs, and computer-generated

images. To March 14. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m.

to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Stony Brook Gallery, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed

Association,

Pennington, 609-737-7592. "A Celebration of Open Space," a

juried group theme show. To March 21. Located in the Watershed’s

Buttinger

Nature Center, gallery hours are Wednesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5

p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Top Of Page
Other Museums

James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street,

Doylestown,

215-340-9800. "Masterpieces of Photography from the Merrill Lynch

Collection," an exhibition of 50 photographs from masters of the

late 19th and 20th centuries including Ansel Adams, Margaret

Bourke-White,

Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz, and Paul Strand.

To March 8. Also featured, "Creative Bucks County: A Celebration

of Art and Artists," an interactive exhibit honoring 12 maverick

Bucks County figures that include Oscar Hammerstein, Pearl Buck, and

Dorothy Parker. Hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,

Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays. Adults $5;

students $1.50; children free.

Top Of Page
Art In Trenton

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-394-9436.

"James

J. Colavita Retrospective," one of five area exhibitions

celebrating

the life and work of the late sculptor, a Lawrenceville native and

MCCC professor of sculpture and ceramics. To February 28.

Capital Health System at Mercer (formerly Mercer Medical

Center) , 446 Bellevue Avenue, Trenton, 609-394-4095. "Ten From

Bordentown," featuring Al Barker, Michael Bergman, Michael Budden,

Juanita Crosby, Eva Palfalvi, Louis Panagini, Don Poinsett, Jack

Prynoski,

Kathy Shumway-Tunney, and Claudia Teal. Watercolor, pastel, oil,

acrylic,

and photography. To February 27.

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, 319 East State Street,

Cadwalader Park, Trenton, 609-989-3632. "James J. Colavita

Retrospective."

Housed in the former "Monkey House," this show highlights

the artist’s animal sculpture. To March 1. Hours are Tuesday to

Saturday,

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 4 p.m.

Extension Gallery, 60 Ward Avenue, Mercerville,

609-890-7777.

"Consumed," recent works by Matthew C. Reiley. Opening

reception

is February 14 for the show that runs to March 5.

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition on view in the museum and newly

renovated Domestic Arts buildings: "Stone: a Group

Exhibition,"

featuring works by Paul Bloch, Michael Braden, Susan Crowder, Horace

Farlowe, Yongjin Han, and Jill Sablosky. To February 28. Gallery and

outdoor hours are Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton,

609-292-6464. "Terry Adkins: Distant Mirrors," a sculpture

show by the artist and jazz musician who uses found materials and

objects to create installations with an African-American presence.

To March 22. "James J. Colavita Retrospective," March 15.

"Nikon Small World," winners of the 1997 international Small

World competition of photographs taken through light microscopes.

To February 22.

Also, "The Glitter and the Gold: Fashioning America’s

Jewelry,"

the story of Newark’s jewelry industry resplendent with more than

300 pieces of jewelry. To April 5. From collar buttons to lorgnettes,

from lace pins to gold brooches, jewelry made in Newark between 1850

and 1950 was sold in virtually every jewelry store in America. By

1890, nearly 100 jewelry manufacturers were operating there, employing

3,000 workers, with $8 million in annual revenues.

Newark’s specialty was "fine jewelry" in 14-carat gold, set

with seed pearls, diamonds, and colored gemstones. Such items

transformed

jewelry-wearing in America from a privilege of the elite to a

necessary

flourish to the appearance of the growing middle class. Organized

by the Newark Museum, items have been drawn from museum and private

collections, arranged thematically to trace the stylistic changes

over the course of a century. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday,

9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Free.

St. Francis Medical Center, 601 Hamilton Avenue, Trenton,

609-599-5659. "Western Scenics" by Evan G. Lindner, black

and white photographs of the American West. To April 10.

Top Of Page
Art by the River

Bell’s Union Street Restaurant, 183 North Union,

Lambertville,

609-397-2226. Wildlife paintings in watercolor and gouache by Beatrice

Bork. Her work is featured in the recent book, "The Best of

Wildlife

Art." To March 14.

Coryell Gallery, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville,

609-397-0804.

The 18th Annual Juried Exhibition of the Lambertville Historical

Society.

Artists awarded cash and purchase prizes include J. Ken Spencer,

Helena

Van Emmerik-Finn, Joahn Sacalis, Josef Barrett, Helen Gallagher, Ron

Lent, Robert Sakson, and Vincent Caglia. To March 15.

Top Of Page
Art in the Workplace

The Gallery at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Route 206 and

Province

Line Road, 609-252-6275. "Off to the Cinema," a show of 45

original poster paintings created by Batiste Madalena, from 1924 to

1928, for George Eastman’s Rochester movie palace. The one-of-a-kind

gouaches feature such silent movie greats as "The Road to

Mandalay,"

"Ben Hur," and "The Ten Commandments." To February

22.

Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Building 2, Lawrenceville,

609-895-7307. "Flowers: Views from the Garden," a group show

featuring paintings by Mark Davis, Thomas George, Lucy McVicker, Paul

Resika, Ralph Rosenborg, and others. To April 10. Gallery hours are

Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Top Of Page
To the North

Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton

streets, New Brunswick, 908-932-7237. "The Great American Pop

Art Store: Multiples of the ’60s," to February 22. "Word and

Image: Contemporary Prints, Portfolios, and Artists’ Books," to

March 1. "Riding the Wave: The Japanese Influence on the Depiction

of the Sea and Water in Western Art," to July 5. "Drawn from

Memory: Kisses from Rosa by Petra Mathers," to March 1.

"Russia

as Seen by Foreign Travelers" to July 31, 1998.

Museum hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday

and Sunday, Noon to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays and major holidays.

Admission

$3 adults; free for members, children under 18, and Rutgers students,

faculty, and staff. Free on the first Sunday of each month.

Top Of Page
OUT BELOW!!!

Hopewell Museum, 28 East Broad Street, Hopewell,

609-466-0103.

On exhibit through January, toys from the collection of Tom and Marion

McCandless, including seven toys made in Hopewell by the short-lived

Hoproco Toy Company, located on Burton Avenue from 1925 to ’27. Also

on exhibit, a dozen miniatures including doll houses, churches, and

barns. Free. Museum hours are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from

2 to 5 p.m.


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