One of the most exciting exhibits of the new fall season is “Water” now on view at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. When it comes to the language of art, water is often used to make a profound graphic statement. And when it comes to literature, science, and public policy, there is a good deal to be said about water as well. As such, “Water,” a remarkably diverse mixed-media exhibition, serves as centerpiece for a long list of timely, instructive and often entertaining water-inspired programs at the museum that continue through the fall.
Spanning centuries, continents, and style, the exhibition serves nicely as a telling material introduction to a remarkable array of ideas and activities; a menu ranging from fun to fact. The schedule includes an open air concert of Handel’s Water Music performed on the banks of the Raritan River; a symposium at the museum, “The Poetry and Politics of Water in Africa, South Asia, Middle East and the Americas”; and the Big Read, a 24-hour reading of water-themed multi-lingual texts of a literary, scientific, and philosophical nature. A screening of an experimental documentary film about seeing movement, doing science, and filming fish in Naples, Italy, by Hanna Rose Shell, assistant professor of science, technology, and society at MIT, is also on the agenda. In the process, the programs turn the spotlight on the university’s multiple roles in the art world, the humanities, political science, and public policy.
Zimmerli director Suzanne Delahanty says that the idea for the exhibition began with a concern to showcase the museum’s noted holdings, but it rapidly developed a life of its own. “When I got here (last year) one of the things I wanted to do was to figure out how to look at our collections in a fresh new way,” she says. “When I asked, ‘How do we cross over boundaries and timeframes, look at the collection in different ways,’ we came up with the idea for ‘Water’ as a multi-dimensional exhibition.
“Our staff got excited about doing a show that crossed over to other departments and the response was stunning. It seems to have hit a resonant chord with so many people. All of a sudden we had a broad network sharing a common interest. We discovered that a significant portion of the university community was involved with issues dealing with water, all over the world.”
What is more, Delahanty says the interdepartmental marriage is a harbinger of things to come at the museum, that the future will bring more exhibitions organized to present art in a broader context.
“Water” travels through artistic time functioning effectively as a study of its expressive graphic potential and a reminder that it has been a key subject for artists as long as there has been art. The exhibition is organized thematically beginning with a room devoted to a wide range of representations of water — from liquid to wall-hung. Other sections concentrate on water in the landscape; poetry, prose, and allegory; divine attributes; life underwater; and the presence of water in the urban landscape. We are offered an array of subject and style that begins with condensation in a cube and concludes with a photograph of desert sand.
“I wanted people to experience water on a variety of levels,” says Donna Gustafson, chief curator of the exhibition, “and to think about life without it. We are all so used to water that we can forget that it is something beautiful.”
The assembled works serve as a study of water’s expressive potential. Ross Cisneros’ edgy installation, “Ice and Ark” (2009) — an arrangement of plastic water bottles and water, suspended in fishing nets from the ceiling in the entry gallery — functions as an introduction. The viewer is immersed here in graphic possibilities that extend from the formal construction of the Hiroshige print, “Downpour at Ohashi Bridge, Atake” (1858) to the aesthetically quirky affect of a watercolor painting floating in a Pyrex dish, which will be washed away over the course of the exhibition.
In the process “Water” functions as an effective showcase for the museum’s world-renowned holdings, many of which are among the finest anywhere. French, American, Russian, and Soviet Nonconformist art, as well as children’s book illustrations are used to help tell the story and demonstrate the diversity of water as artistic subject. (The Zimmerli’s permanent collection comprises more than 60,000 works, ranked among the top five nationally.)
Gustafson says that a secondary exhibition goal was to “bring lots of cultures together.” As such, some 100 works span nations and societies in paint, print, photography, illustrated books, and in recent works that often defy precise definition. The collection travels around the globe with Xiao Chen’s Qing Dynasty hanging scroll, “Valley and Mountains after Zhao Boju” (circa 1645-1715); Haitian artist Amena Simeon’s intricate beaded flags portraying Mami Wata, a divinity of the water (2000); a rare Yoruban ritual vessel; and Atul Bhallaa’s 20-part photographic installation grid of New Delhi’s historic public water spigots, “Piaus” (2006).
The assertive tenor of the contemporary graphic voice calls out to the viewer in such works as a large clear plastic cube in which you can watch water condense, Bill Viola’s color video dyptich, “Ablutions” (2005), Anton and Jonas’ video projection, “Always New, Always Familiar” (2000), Wangechi Mutu’s video piece “Amazing Grace” (2005), and the aforementioned vanishing watercolor, Geoffrey Hendricks’ “Waiting” (1998).
About the Hendricks piece, Gustafson says “You can watch it disappear,” and notes that the artist promised that there would still be a something to look at by the time the exhibition ended. “He has assured me that after three months there will be some of the painting remaining.”
And there is no way an exhibition that focuses on water could be staged in New Brunswick without a look at the subject close to home. Among the works with a local angle are: “The Beach at Long Branch” by Winslow Homer (1869), John Jesse Barker’s “View of the New Brunswick Railroad Bridge” (circa 1856), a photograph of a water tower in Rahway by George Tice (1994), and John Kensett’s richly toned “View of the Shrewsbury River, New Jersey” (1859).
The exhibition extends beyond the limits of fine art to consider the subject and the dimensions of its cultural and political impact in a resource gallery where visitors can examine aspects of global and local water issues in print and on a pair of computer terminals with internet access to UN water sites. An interdisciplinary audio tour featuring Rutgers faculty from the sciences and the humanities, accessible by cell phone, helps tell the story.
Delahanty says she considers the phone tour a highlight noting the “interesting roster of faculty members. We have this incredible intellectual power at Rutgers. It’s nice have it available by cell.”
“Water” is sufficiently complex to have required a curatorial team to stage it. In addition to Gustafson, who is the Mellon liaison for academic programs and curator at the Zimmerli, the exhibit has been organized with assistance from Gail Aaron, formerly assistant curator for original children’s book illustration; Christine Giviskos, associate curator of European art; Julia Tulovsky, assistant curator of Russian and Soviet art; Marilyn Symmes, director of the Morse Research Center and curator of prints and drawings; and Jeffrey Wechsler, senior curator, Zimmerli Art Museum.
“Water,” Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237, zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu. “Water,” to January 2.
Experiments on Film, Wednesday, October 6. Screening and discussion of “Locomotion in Water” and other works on video presented by the director. Co-organized with the program in history of science, technology, environment and health, Rutgers University.
Outdoor Performances on the Banks of the Raritan River, Sunday, October 10, 3 p.m. Handel’s Water Music, Duke Ellington’s Water Suite, and other works celebrating water, featuring the New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra. Free. (For location, visit www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu.)
Reading Water — the Big Read, Saturday and Sunday, October 23 and 24 12 noon to 12 noon. A 24-hour reading at the Zimmerli Art Museum of water-themed texts of a literary, scientific, and philosophical nature in a multitude of languages.
The Poetry and Politics of Water in Africa, South Asia, Middle East and the Americas, Wednesday, November 3, 1 to 5 p.m. A symposium co-organized by the department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literature, the Center for African Studies, and the Zimmerli Art Museum. Informal reception to follow.
Arts Council of Princeton, Contemporary Gallery, Princeton Shopping Center, 301 North Harrison Street, 609-924-8777. www.artscouncilofprinceton.org. Members show, “People and Places,” on view through October 1. “Terrace Project: Joseph Petrovics,” on view through November 10. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, 609-468-4127. www.artworkstrenton.org. “Made in Metal,” a juried group show of artistic, decorative, and utilitarian objects made of metal, through October 24.
Brodsky Center Gallery, Heldrich Hotel, 10 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick. www.brodskycenter.org. “Always Remember September 11,” opening with a reception on Thursday, September 16. Featuring artwork created by people from across the United States to memorialize September 11, 2001. Through November 30.
Bucks Gallery of Fine Art, 201 South State Street, Newtown, PA, 215-479-0050. www.bucksgalleryoffineart.com.
Mariboe Gallery, Peddie School, Hightstown, 609-490-7550. www.peddie.org. “I Remember What I Did Not See,” sculptures by Sachiko Akiyama, through October 4. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-924-7206. www.chapinschool.org. “Of Town and Country,” paintings by Eric Fowler, on view to September 30. Opening reception Wednesday, September 15, 5 to 7 p.m. “Selected Paintings, 1989-2010” by Frank Rivera, opening reception Wednesday, October 6, 5 to 7 p.m. Exhibits may be viewed by appointment during school hours.
D&R Greenway, Preservation Place, Rosedale Road, 609-924-4646. www.drgreenway.org. “Preservation of an Integrated Landscape,” artists of Salem County, to October 15. Galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.
Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511. www.photosgallery14.com. “WATERcolors” by Martha Weintraub, and “Yellow Line Road Art” by Frank S. Cheh, both to October 10. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Gallery at Mercer County College, Communications Center, 609-586-4800, ext. 3589. www.mccc.edu/community_gallery. “Plastics Alchemy,” works by artists who have been volunteers at the gallery during the past 10 years. Closing reception, Wednesday, September 29, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Gallery hours Mondays, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Gourgaud Gallery, 13 North Main Street, Cranbury, 609-395-0900. www.gourgaudhist.htm. “Cranbury Digital Camera Club,” to September 26. “Peaceful Places,” paintings by Donna Kumagai, opening Sunday, October 3. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and first, third, and last Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.
Grounds For Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, 609-689-1089. www.groundsforsculpture.org. Kremer. Five acres of outdoor sculpture. Indoors: “A New Dimension,” sculptures by Keith Haring, and “Eminent Domain,” sculptures by Chakaia Booker, to September 19.
Morpeth Gallery, 43 West Broad Street, Hopewell, 609-333-9393. www.ruthmorpeth.com. Steven Alexander, paintings, and James Perry, sculpture, opening October 1. Reception Saturday, October 2, 6 to 8 p.m. Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-4377. www.smallworldcoffee.com. “In No One Direction,” photos by Linda Sbath, to October 5. “A Mentaculus,” Brian Casally, opening with a reception on Friday, October 8, 8 p.m., on view to November 2. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Artful Deposit Gallery, 201 Farnsworth Avenue, Bordentown, 609-298-6970. www.theartfuldeposit.com. Gallery hours are Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, 1 to 6 p.m.; Friday, 1 to 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.
Thomas Sweet Coffee and Ice Cream, 1330 Route 206, Skillman, 609-430-2828. Photos by travel photographer David Simchock.
University Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street, 609-497-4069. www.princetonhcs.org. Paintings by Daniel Turner Thomas. Paintings by Daniel P. Turner Thomas, opening with a reception on Friday, September 17, 5 to 7 p.m. On view to November 17. Gallery is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Princeton University Art Museum, 609-258-3788, www.PrincetonArtMuseum.org. “Pictures of Pictures,” works exploring the way in which artists create one picture within another, to October 10; “Nature Unbound: Flora and Fauna in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Art,” to October 18; “Starburst: Color Photography in America, 1970-1980,” to September 26; “Doug Aitken: Migration (Empire),” video installation on the museum’s front lawn, to November 14. “Gauguin’s Paradise Remembered: The Noa Noa Prints,” opening September 25; “Green, Amber, Cream: Forgotten Art of a Ceramic Workshop in Shanxi, China,” opening September 25; “Nobody’s Property: Art, Land, Space, 2000-2010,” opening October 23. Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Tours are given on Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Princeton University, Bernstein Gallery, Robertson Hall, 609-258-3000. www.princeton.edu. “Project Global Underground,” digital works by Valera and Natasha Cherkashin. Artist talk and panel discussion, Tuesday, October 19, 4:30 to 6 p.m., Aaron Burr Hall, Room 219, reception following in the gallery. Gallery hours Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rider University Art Gallery, Bart Luedike Center, third floor, 2083 Lawrenceville Road. “Translating Nature,” Joy Kreves, opening with a reception on Thursday, September 30, 5 to 7 p.m.. Hours: Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
Art by the River
Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, 609-397-4588. www.lambertvillearts.com. “New Jersey Blues,” works honoring New Jersey’s many byways and highways by artist Richard Harrington and photographer John Treichler, on view through October 3. Open Fridays to Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Coryell Gallery, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-0804. Summer exhibition, to September 25. “A Different View,” an invitational exhibition of 12 abstract painters,” opening October 3, on view to November 14. Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
New Hope Sidetracks Art Gallery, 2A Stockton Avenue, New Hope, 215-862-4586. www.nhsidetracks.com. “Naked in New Hope,” a group show on view through October 19. Gallery hours are Sunday, Monday, and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Art In Trenton
Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park, 609-989-3632. www.ellarslie.org. Garden State Watercolor Society’s 41st annual juried exhibition, opening with a reception on Saturday, September 18, 7 to 9 p.m., on view to November 7. Gallery walk with Marge Chavooshian on Saturday, September 25, 1 p.m. Watercolor demonstration with Robert Heyer on Saturday, October 9, 1 p.m. “Trenton High Through the Years,” opening with a reception on Friday, October 8, 5 to 8 p.m., on view to December 30. Hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, 609-292-6464. www.newjerseystatemuseum.org. “American Perspectives: The Fine Art Collection” opening Saturday October 2. Hours: Tueday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, 215-340-9800. www.michenerartmuseum.org. “Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom,” to October 10; “Bucks County and the Philadelphia Sketch Club,” to November 21; “John Waddell: Mother and Child,” outdoor sculpture, to November 28. “LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel,” opening September 25, on view to January 30. Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 pm.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237, www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu. “Water,” to January 2; “The Colors of the Steppe: Non-Conformist Art form Soviet Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan,” to October 24; “Animal Fair: Birds, Beasts, and Bugs in Children’s Book Illustrations,” to June 5. Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Spotlight tours every Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free. Free admission on the first Sunday of each month.
Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, 973-971-3700. www.morrismuseum.org. “The Legacy of Currier & Ives: Shaping the American Spirit,” to January 9. Hours: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.