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This article by F.R. Rivera was prepared for the March 19, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Art Review: Mercer County Artists
The Mercer County Artists show is a mixed bag. It is
certainly ecumenical, summoning artists of every persuasion to face
off with a juror. Eligibility? Over 18 and living or working in Mercer
County will do. Could there be a more democratic formula for fairness?
Hardly. Could it result in an exhibition of uneven quality? Almost
always! Nevertheless, the 2003 show is possibly the best show in recent
This result does not mean that either side — jurors or artists
— is not professional or well intentioned. This writer has been
on both sides of the face-off, and as recently as last September,
was one of three jurors at the annual Phillips Mill show. We felt
overwhelmed — if not beleaguered — by the sheer volume of
work submitted. After several hours of first impressions, requiring
a yea or a nay vote, a numbing paralysis sets in that can lead to
errors of judgment, trade-offs, and the inevitable compromises.
In the classic search for consensus, jurors, when in doubt, consign
dozens of works to that purgatory otherwise known as the "maybe
pile." Revisiting the "maybes" at Phillips Mill, I remember
thinking what a really good second show these works would make.
When an artist has spent months crafting his or her work, it seems
a fundamentally flawed system that can write the effort off in minutes.
The best art decisions are made by one person, one artist, one judge,
one curator. The larger the team, the more muddied becomes the decision-making.
History teaches us that the unaccepted is often every bit as worthy
as the accepted, hence the raison d’etre for the Salon des Refuses,
Salon des Independents, and that anecdotal pile of maybes in search
of a second chance. Who among us has not submitted a refused work
to a different juror — perhaps even to a subsequent Mercer County
Artists Show — to learn that not only was the work accepted, but
that it was awarded a prize.
Jurors do provide a quality control factor that can give shape and
substance to a survey of the people making the good art in a given
place and time. Here in Mercer County, for dozens of artists with
solid local reputations, it is a "must" to be included in
this annual spring roundup. It is equally important as a rite of
passage for those who have just moved to Mercer or for emerging artists
and students testing their wings.
It has been said of this show that it can jump start an exhibition
career or patch a sagging one; and the exhibition has served our community
well. In other words, it does good even if it doesn’t always look
good. Its failure to look good is the cafeteria-style nature of the
show, which merely reflects the pluralism of the community’s artists.
It takes more than a couple of good jurors to facelift this show.
It would take several shows. segregated by media, or a larger, part-invitational,
part-juried show to fix the overall look. Open art exhibitions present
the juror with the impossible task of making something cohesive out
of clutter. Once one endorses the notion that clutter is acceptable,
i.e., all messages and media are equally valid, the resulting deluge
is not unlike an avalanche of computer SPAM. All a self-respecting
juror can do is delete and purge.
Looking at the numbers, one must conclude that the jurors of this
year’s show strove heroically to create a clean, cohesive exposition.
Both jurors, Debbie Pringle and Ruth Morpeth, are seasoned gallery
directors with defined, specific tastes, and the courage to make the
call. Knowing that her jurors were unequivocal, if not plain tough,
curator Tricia Fagan noted that she expected the cuts to be even deeper
and result in a leaner show, if not a more focused one.
To Fagan’s surprise, the final count was a whopping 87 works accepted
(94 rejected), suggesting that the jurors were more generous, if not
soft, with the "maybe pile." Their choices prove that even
at half the total submissions, a common aesthetic that would have
give the show character refused to surface. The viewer will see figures,
portraits, landscapes, still lifes, abstract and non-objective paintings
— on board, canvas, paper, wood, and aluminum; executed in marker,
pencil, pastel, ink, collage, gouache, watercolor, egg tempera, acrylic,
oil and encaustic. The rest of the show is rounded out with fabric,
yarn, beads, glitter, clay, stoneware, porcelain, and raku.
Of the artists in the exhibition, about two-thirds have
shown in the Mercer County Artists Annual at least once before. The
newcomers are few and provide the only surprises in an overall conservative
Juror awards went appropriately to painters; sculpture was weak. Receiving
awards were Charles A. Alden, Donald Eaton, Jeff Gola, Katarzyna Iwaniec,
Lucy Graves McVicker, Peggy J. Rose, and Lynn Suply. Ruth Jourjine
garnered a purchase award for porcelain; and Steve Smith received
one for a pastel rendering of an old pick-up truck.
It is impossible to know which or how many worthy pieces were not
accepted. We concur with the awards bestowed on Alden for his oil-on-canvas
landscape entitled "West of Salamanca," which is as sunny
and cheery as Eaton’s award-winning self- portrait is dark and brooding,
with wonderful plum burgundy shadows. Both artists paint with conviction
Some of the other painting awards will appeal to popular tastes, but
the works were less imaginative than one might hope. It is a shame
that no special recognition was given to Joy Barth, Jeanne Pasley,
Dahlia Guzik, Patricia Tisa Butt, and Robert O’Boyle. O’Boyle has
been showing at the Mercer County Artists Show since the late 1970s.
He is a gifted educator who runs the advanced placement art program
at Hopewell Valley High School, and has a reputation for exacting
the best from the best of his students, who affectionately call him
"Doc." It is widely known that he is a master teacher. The
fact that he is also an accomplished painter is perhaps less well
Two of O’Boyle’s works are included in the Mercer County show, along
with work by his wife Carrie Owen O’Boyle. Recently O’Boyle begin
incorporating metallic pigment with works in gouache. His piece entitled
"Plates from the Alchemists" is a little masterwork of intimacy
and invention. On two separate sheets of paper, he composes what looks
like and arrangement of after-dinner cakes dressed in foil of luscious
pink and yellow. O’Boyle whets out appetite for more.
Our commendation also goes to the newcomers to this year’s show, who
are mostly students. They are Donald Eaton, Jennifer Cadoff, Daniel
Hodgkinson, Eric Kennedy, and Omar Mashal. Mashal, who was accepted
for study at the Art Institute of Chicago last year, has delayed matriculation
for lack of funds. His irrepressible, quirky depiction of "Laura
Moon" give us a big balloon-faced creature with round black, panda-bear
eyes. Because she has no nose, there is a kind of humorous angst in
those Laura Moon eyes that will beguile you.
— F.R. Rivera
College, Communications Center, West Windsor, 609-586-4800, extension
3589. Open Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday evenings
6 to 8 p.m.; Thursday evenings 7 to 9 p.m. To April 3.
Road, 609-924-6700. Sculptures and assemblages by La Thorial Badenhausen.
To April 2.
and Montgomery Center for the Arts, 1860 House, 124 Montgomery
Road, Skillman, 609-921-3272. Two-venue Leonard Nelson Retrospective
Exhibition of paintings and prints by the late Philadelphia modernist,
curated by Sam Hunter, professor emeritus, Princeton University. To
overlooked until recent years," says Sam Hunter, whose comprehensive,
illustrated monograph on the artist was published by Rozzoli International
in 2001. "The rediscovery of his work is prompting increased
awareness of what a quiet, yet formidable force Nelson has been in
the evolution of 20th-century American art."
Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "From Tow Path to Bike Path: Princeton
and the Delaware and Raritan Canal," an exhibition on the history
and creation of the canal. Open Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.;
Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy," celebrating the contributions
of Swiss engineers to structural design in the 20th century. Robert
Maillart, Othmar Ammann, Heinz Isler, and Christian Menn are among
the designers featured. The show is also a tribute to David Billington
who pioneered the integration of liberal artsinto engineering education
during his 45 years teaching at Princeton. To June 15. Open Tuesday
through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Highlights
tours every Saturday at 2 p.m.
Also "The Photographs of Ed Ranney: The John B. Elliott Collection,"
an overview of the artist’s career from 1970 and 1999. First recognized
for his photographic studies of Mayan stonework in the 1970s, Ranney
began an ongoing collaboration with the artist Charles Ross in 1979,
documenting the evolution of Ross’s earthwork sculpture "Star
Axis" being carved into a cliff face in eastern New Mexico. Ranney
will give a lecture on "Space and Place" Wednesday, April
9, at 4:30 p.m. in McCormick 106; show runs to June 7.
Also on view "Seeing the Unseen: Abstract Photography, 1900 to
1940," to March 23. "The Arts of Asia: Works in the Permanent
Collection" to June 30.
609-258-3184. "Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders, and Book
Designers," a Milberg Gallery exhibition curated by Rebecca Warren
Davidson. To April 13.
School, 609-258-1651. "Africa’s Lunatics," a photography show
by French photographer Vincent Fougere that depicts how Africa cares
for and treats its mentally ill. After a childhood spent in the Ivory
Coast, Fougere spent eight years traveling across Africa to photograph
its bruised souls. Opening reception is Friday, February 7. Gallery
hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To March 21.
609-771-2198. "A Community of Artists: Sculpture from Members
of the Johnson Atelier" featuring work by 15 staff and apprentices
of the Technical Institute of Sculpture in Mercerville, curated by
CNJ faculty artist Charles Kumnick and gallery director Judy Masterson.
Open Monday through Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday 7 to 9 p.m.;
and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m. To April 2.
Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "George Segal: Sculpture, Paintings,
and Drawings from the Artist’s Studio," a major traveling exhibition,
to May 26. Also: "June Wayne: Selected Graphics, 1950 to 2000,"
a show celebrating Wayne’s recent appointment as a research professor
at Rutgers and the establishment of the June Wayne Study Center and
Archive; to June 29. "Russian Cover Design, 1920s to 1930s: The
Graphic Face of the Post-Revolutionary and Stalinist Periods";
to March 30. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday
and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Spotlight tours Sundays at 2 and 3 p.m.
Admission $3 adults; under 18 free; and free on the first Sunday of
Sculpture by Gabriele Roos and an group show by the photographer members
of Gallery 14 in Hopewell. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3
p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To April 13.
"Things with Horns and Doll Babies Too," an exhibition of
bronze and mixed-media sculpture by Kitty Hundley. A 2000 graduate
of College of New Jersey, the artist is now a member of the Johnson
Atelier technical staff. Open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To April 3.
609-586-0616. In the Museum, new work by glass artist Dale Chihuly,
extended to July 6. In the Domestic Arts Building "Focus on Sculpture
2003," an annual juried exhibition of photographs by amateur photographers,
to April 6. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year round;
Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission is $4 Tuesday through Thursday;
$7 Friday and Saturday; and $10 Sunday. Individual memberships start
609-695-0061. Ritch Gaiti, "Returning to the Spirits, A Painted
Journey of the West." A self-taught painter, Gaiti spent 26 ears
in the corporate world and retired from his first career as the first
vice president and senior director of advanced technology at Merrill
Lynch. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
To April 26.
Solo show by Hopewell artist Sal Asaro with scenes of Sicily, Bucks
County, New Orleans, and Maine. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday,
and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To April 6. Free.
609-773-0881. Group show features new paintings by James Lucas. Open
Thursday to Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. To March 30.
Painter and sculptor Edward M. Adams’ new gallery space. A widely
exhibited artist, Adams is also a licensed psychologist with a private
practice in Somerville. Winter gallery hours Friday, Saturday, and
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
"Creatures," a theme art show to benefit the Hunterdon County
SPCA animal shelter. Featured artists include Robert Beck, Anne Cooper
Dobbins, Lisa Mahan, Kim Robertson, Barry Snyder, and Stacie Speer-Scott.
Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 31.
Building 4, third floor, Lawrenceville, 609-896-0732. Solo show
of paintings and sculptures by Mexican artist Rony Chubich. The Abud
Family Foundation for the Arts was established in 2002 to promote
Ibero-American art in various forms. Show runs to April 11.
Created by area neurosurgoen Ariel Abud and his family, the foundation
promotes the contemporary arts of Spain, Latin America, and Central
America. It awards stipends to artists, with an invitation to travel
to the U.S. and exhibit their work in the small Lawrenceville gallery.
Gallery is open by appointment, Wednesday to Saturday, 1:30 to 6 p.m.
Abstract paintings by Florence Moonan. In 1990, the artist was awarded
Best of Show at the Ellarlise Open IX. "Moonan’s abstract acrylics
are deeply moving," says gallery owner Abby Frantz. "They
draw you into the personal and emotional feeling she’s projecting.
Her works reflect an incredible sensitivity, and viewing her work
is a richly rewarding experience." On view to April 26.
Route 1, Lawrence Township, 609-989-6920. David J. Simchock’s photography
exhibition, "Vagabond Vistas." The images were captured during
the artist’s three-year journey through five continents. To March
New Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "From the Old World to the New World,"
recent additions to the collection featuring works by nine Hungarian
Americans who emigrated to the U.S. between 1920 and 1957. Artists
are Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Bertha and Elena De Hellenbranth, Sandor Sugor,
Emil Kelemen, Willy Pogany, Tibor Gergely, Zoltan Poharnok, and Vincent
Korda. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and
Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. $5 donation. Through April.
732-745-4177. "Uncommon Clay: New Jersey’s Architectural Terra
Cotta Industry," an exhibition of artifacts and written and oral
histories of New Jersey’s once booming architectural ceramics industry.
Open Tuesday through Friday, 1 to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
To May 30.
609-292-6464. "Cultures in Competition: Indians and Europeans
in Colonial New Jersey," a show that traces the impact of European
settlement on the native Indians’ way of life after 1600. On extended
view: "Art by African-Americans: A Selection from the Collection;"
"New Jersey’s Native Americans: The Archaeological Record;"
"Delaware Indians of New Jersey;" "The Sisler Collection
of North American Mammals;" "Of Rock and Fire;" "Neptune’s
Architects;" "The Modernists;" "New Jersey Ceramics,
Silver, Glass and Iron;" "Historical Archaeology of Colonial
New Jersey;" "Washington Crossing the Delaware."
215-340-9800. "Randall Exon: A Quiet Light," a solo show by
the Philadelphia-area painter and Swarthmore College professor; to
April 27. "A Home of Our Own," a show that commemorates Levittown’s
50th anniversary featuring the contemporary photographs of Jean Klatchko
and vintage objects from the State Museum; to April 13. Winter hours:
Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Admission $6 adults; $3 students and childre
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