Art in Town

Art On Campus

Other Museums

Art In Trenton

Art by the River

Art in the Workplace

Corrections or additions?

This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the January 3, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Pat Summers: Visual Arts

One door closes, another opens, they say. The old year

may have died, or crept away, or, in some cases, even been shunted

aside — but none of those can happen officially before a few last

yelps of delight or dismay from this corner.

The year 2000 could boast any number of milestones and highlights

in the visual arts. Early on, we were hurt, shocked, and indignant

at Part 2 of the Whitney Museum’s "American Century." So many

un-beautiful, un-decorative ingredients. But then, forced to

reconsider,

we did some good thinking about it and tapped into the oceans of

emotions

that engendered it in the second half of the century now past. Result:

we didn’t like it all, or even a lot of it, but we understood it

better.

The Chinese lunar new year that ushered in the year of the dragon

prompted closer looks at origins and customs of the holiday, and

heightened

appreciation of dragon images in their countless incarnations —

calligraphy to painting to sculpture.

Artsbridge sponsored a notable and timely spring show at Prallsville

Mills, its best yet, and Grounds for Sculpture featured the genial

work of the equally genial contemporary artist Red Grooms during the

summer. Pat Martin pulled together an illuminating show of abstract

art in Lambertville, and HomeFront produced its eighth annual Shona

sculpture show and sale in its most spacious venue yet, at MarketFair,

and in this case, more was more.

Gail Bracegirdle and her Artworks students lived the dream of painting

en plein air in a marvelous garden setting. Four influential

area artists showed their handmade paper works at the Summit Bancorp

headquarters, part of an exhibition program that may or may not

survive

the company’s imminent take over by Fleet Bank. Ruth Morpeth opened

a sleek new gallery in Hopewell, with shows to match, and its future

should be bright. Sculptor Richard Serra came to town. And left his

mark on the Princeton University campus.

On July 1, after years of free access and lavish openings, Grounds

for Sculpture evolved from a private to a public charitable

organization

— still not-for-profit and meaning, to visitors, that it began

charging admission to the sculpture park, started a membership

program,

and offered an extensive array of events on the grounds — all

aimed at attracting more public funding.

So far it’s working, says Brooke Barrie, director and curator. This

transition was signaled by the hiring eight months ago of Bonnie Brown

as membership manager. "Atlantic, our parent foundation, was

responsible

for start-up: initial building improvements, operating support, and

so on. Then they pull back," Barrie explains. The park is now

part of Public Art Foundation Inc.

After just six months, Grounds for Sculpture has already attracted

over 800 members — doubling her expectations, Barrie says, and

Brown has scheduled 24 varied events for next year. Some, like the

exhibition openings that until now were open to those on the mailing

list, will be for members only, while others will target different

membership levels; still others will be open to the public. "We

hope they’ll at least pay for themselves," Barrie says, observing

that, "We’re more fiscally conscious now."

From the famous furniture studio she heads up in New

Hope, Mira Nakashima closed the year with good news and bad news.

Around the time her profile appeared in U.S. 1 (May 3, 2000), she

had signed a contract with Abrams for a book about her late father,

George Nakashima. But by last month, she reported, ruefully, that

she has not yet moved too far with it. The press of day-to-day

business,

along with her periodic travel and involvement in exhibition

preparation,

have all slowed her progress. While she has drafted a number of pages

toward the 300 total-page goal, these "need work," and she’s

still gathering photographs toward the planned 200 color plates.

However, a San Diego museum plans a Nakashima retrospective in May,

2002, to coincide with publication of the book, so Nakashima has an

extra incentive to finish the manuscript. Hoping for more than her

take on an illustrated chronology of her father’s life, she wants

to incorporate information about the chief influences on his furniture

design: the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, in India, and the Minguren movement,

a Japanese group that stressed craft, over art, objects.

For Nakashima, the concept of "Keisho," or continuation, has

been a guiding principle, causing her to continue with her father’s

designs while creating her own. Accordingly, she has also labored

to further her father’s dream of making gigantic "Peace

Altars,"

in the form of tables, one for each of the world’s continent.

But the news from Russia, where the second altar in this series had

been placed in the Academy of Art, awaiting dedication, is bad. Her

representative there has just discovered that the giant table has

been cut in half. Rare wood, rare workmanship, rare gift —

painstakingly

transported in one piece, at great expense — now severed. Trying

to be philosophical about it, Nakashima could say only, "That’s

an indication of how things are in Russia, and how much there is to

be done."

The Michener Museum’s semi-annual tour of the Nakashima workshop is

planned for Saturday, April 21; it is limited to 25 people. On Friday

afternoon, April 27, Nakashima will also host three one-hour Chamber

of Commerce-sponsored "Bucks Fever Tours." From June through

September, 2001, a Michener exhibition will offer a view of George

Nakashima in the context of other modern furniture designers.

The year 2000 might go down as the year of Mel Leipzig.

He and his work seemed to be everywhere. This trend reached its

apotheosis

when New Yorker magazine readers opened the October 9 issue and found

a color reproduction of a Leipzig painting, together with a favorable

review of his retrospective exhibition of paintings at Gallery Henoch,

New York. This latest recognition came as no surprise: Leipzig and

his work have won friends and influenced people for years; witness

the crowds of admirers his talks invariably attract.

See a newspaper ad about an upcoming art lecture? Chances are, it’s

Leipzig’s. This year alone, above and beyond teaching at Mercer County

Community College, he took part in its distinguished lecture series

with talks on van Gogh and Millet, and he spoke about Ben Shahn and

Edward Hopper at the Princeton Public Library, during a look back

at the Roosevelt administration. Unstinting with his time and

expertise,

Leipzig says he wants to make sure that the "art part" is

included in such presentations. Now represented in "Mel and Vince:

What a Combo" at Ellarslie, the Museum of the City of Trenton,

Leipzig is presenting a total of four accompanying talks — about

still other artists. All are part of the "Eyes on Trenton"

program, a Leipzig brainchild from 1981.

To me, it’s a depressing sight to enter a room full

of museum-goers, literally shuffling to a different drummer —

looking where directed, listening and presumably accepting what

they’re

told. What’s happening? Mass hypnotism? It’s the ascendancy of the

audio-cassette museum tour. Remember when people used to visit a

gallery

or museum and face up to the works, thinking for themselves? Now it

looks like a parade of pilgrims, eager only to "cover" a show,

to glean the most up-to-date tidbits of information, and then to move

on to the next audio-tape — or the next exhibition.

What ever happened to self-reliance? Or even to look before you

listen?

Nowadays, those in line for exhibition admission are faced first by

the dispensers of earphones and then by the ever-burgeoning gift shop.

Somewhere in between, if they’re lucky and if they notice, there’s

the art. The low drone of a narrator compels visitors to "walk

this way" even if they’re not ready. And even if someone else

is standing in their way.

On one hand, it’s great to have comprehensive shows, so much art,

so many museum-goers. On the other hand, is the ubiquitous audio

cassette

dumbing-down both clientele and artists, too — so neatly

positioned,

rationalized, and pigeonholed, explained, positioned? Whatever

happened

to spontaneity, or even to puzzlement?

Regardless of whether museums attract more people these days, couldn’t

they be encouraged to think independently, instead of being handed

the packaged view? And if visitors lack the confidence to do so at

first — those over-audible docents leading groups around can

sometimes

be intimidating and seem infallible — aren’t there a few basic

questions viewers could be equipped with for looking at art, something

like guide questions for reading that school children are so familiar

with.

What are the basic questions that a museum-goer might try to answer

while looking at and thinking about a work of art? What mantra can

art-viewers recite to break free of the infernal earphones and to

stop shuffling?

A related question is, what concepts, what terms would it help museum

visitors to possess so they might have a few life lines and feel

reasonably

comfortable with the notion of looking at art for themselves? Do they

need to know, for instance, how a work is physically produced —

how intaglio printmaking is done, for example, or about the trickiness

of watercolor? How about an artist’s historical context: would it

help a viewer to know who else was making art at the same time?

And what of terms like "abstract," "non-objective,"

"linear," "tension"? Of course, it is laughable to

suggest that museum-goers start with books like "The Art

Pack,"

or take a course like the brilliant "Experiences in Seeing"

that is offered by Artworks. And yet if viewer preparation were left

wholly to the museums themselves, how quickly would more detailed

wall signage become onerous and didactic, despite the best pedagogical

intentions?

And then there’s the phenomenon of the art show souvenir

junk shop that so many museums feature. These goods are ostensibly

ties to the art show; would you believe the Philadelphia Museum of

Art selling colored fortune cookies containing quotes from van Gogh’s

letters? Here’s an idea: why couldn’t the Philadelphia Museum of Art

use some of its shop space to showcase the work of area artists? This

innovation would be a decided service, lending visibility to the work

of more artists and giving visitors the option of buying something

akin to what they came to see.

Last year the internationally known sculptor Richard Serra came to

Princeton in the form of "The Hedgehog and the Fox." What

now? With the monumental steel work now installed on the university

campus, its already rich collection of outdoor sculpture has gained

luster. What will the university do about the Serra? And the Nevelson,

the Moore, the Picasso? Yes, anyone may walk around campus and look

at these estimable works. But is that all there is?

University-sponsored

tours of these accessible art works would be a worthy addition. The

Orange Key tour does not include sculpture in its campus tour. Could

art museum docents or the fine arts faculty and students walk the

walk and talk the sculpture?

Looking ahead for likely highlights of 2001, an art

odyssey might include the newly enlarged and revamped Zimmerli Museum,

where "American Impressionism: Treasures from the Smithsonian’s

American Art Museum" will open in March and run till May. Shortly

after closing its Al Hirschfeld retrospective on February 11, the

James A. Michener Art Museum will open an Alfred Stieglitz

retrospective

to include his cloud series and photographic portrait series of his

wife, Georgia O’Keeffe.

Ellarslie, the Museum of the City of Trenton, will house a

"Johnson

Atelier Open" between April 21 and June 3. Serving as "judge

and jury himself," Brian O. Hill, executive director, says the

show is open to past and present students, interns, and faculty

members

of the technical institute.

Rider University hosts a March 22 to April 15 show of Chinese

paintings

by an acclaimed contemporary artist, Heng-Yi Aixinjueluo. Grounds

for Sculpture’s fall and winter exhibition remains on view through

April 8. In the Museum building, Tim Prentice’s hanging sculptures

— undulating sheets of plastic or metal pieces on airy armatures

of fine stainless steel — are worth a visit.

Now in a new year, with its symbolic clean plates and blank slates,

we hope area galleries and other art venues have made two crucial

resolutions. The first: specify "medium" on every wall label.

Too often this invaluable piece of information is missing, as if most

viewers would just know encaustic when they see it, or distinguish

on their own an etching from a drypoint from a monoprint; or even

acrylic from oil. Having an idea of what they’re looking at can

heighten

appreciation and contribute to visitors’ art education.

Second, distinguish in marketing between an art exhibition and an

art sale. An exhibition or show stays intact for the length of its

stated run; if pieces are sold, they may be marked with red dots or

the equivalent, and buyers can claim them after the last display day.

In contrast, an art sale permits — and encourages — buyers

to choose, pay, and walk with the works on the day of sale. Empty

wall spaces may or may not be re-filled, and replacements may or may

not be comparable to the work first displayed. This difference seems

pretty clear-cut — though evidently it’s not to the venues that

advertise an "exhibition" while actually conducting a

"sale."

Visitors who go expecting to see a cohesive exhibition can prove the

losers here.

And so, it’s been wring out the old, ring in the new. Now that

we’ve got our licks in, 2000 is dead; long live 2001! Here’s to art

history in the making.

Top Of Page
Art in Town

Firebird Gallery, 16 Witherspoon Street, 609-688-0775.

A holiday exhibit of original watercolors by the Russian-born

illustrator

Gennady Spirin from two new picture books: "Philipok" by Leo

Tolstoy, and "Joy to the World, a Family Christmas Treasury."

Gallery hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To January

15.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158

Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "Old Traditions, New Beginnings,"

a major exhibition celebrating 250 years of Princeton Jewish history,

jointly presented and exhibited at the Jewish Center of Princeton.

This is the first-ever exhibit on the history of Princeton’s Jewish

community, scheduled to coincide with the Jewish Center’s 50th

anniversary.

Topics addressed include early arrivals, family life, social

organizations,

work and business pursuits, religious traditions, and anti-Semitism.

On view through March.

Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street,

609-497-4192.

Dining room exhibit of works by Pennsylvania resident artist Susan

Ketcham. Part of the proceeds benefit the Medical Center. On view

daily, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., to January 18.

Numina Gallery, Princeton High School, Moore Street,

609-683-4480. The new student-run professional gallery features,

"Sculptors,"

an exhibition of photographs by Ricardo Barros, featuring a series

of environmental portraits of artists currently being developed as

a book. All profits from sale of works go directly to PHS art

programs.

Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.; and by appointment

from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Show runs to January 5.

Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20

Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Witnessing to the Word," a group

show featuring the work of sculptor Patrick Birge, potter Patrick

Caughy, and painter Patrick Ellis. The artists met through a

consortium

of theological schools. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m.

to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 9:30 p.m. To January

5.

The Williams Gallery, 8 Chambers Street, 609-921-1142.

First day for "The Familiar and Not So Familiar," an exhibit

of works by digital artist Roman Verostko that includes traditional

landscapes and still lifes to futuristic visions of space and nature.

Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To January

27.

Top Of Page
Art On Campus

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

Drawings in the Golden Age," an exhibition of Old Master drawings,

to January 7. "The American Tradition in Drawings," to January

28. "Contemporary Photographs," to February 25. On extended

view in the Bowen Gallery, Richard Serra’s "Weight and

Measure"

etchings. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to

5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the collection are every

Saturday at 2 p.m. 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.

Princeton University, Firestone Library,

609-258-3184.

The Graduate School continues its centennial observance with the

exhibition

"A Community of Scholars: Graduate Education at Princeton,"

an exhibition of more than 100 photographs, documents, and artifacts

that chronicle the evolution of graduate studies at Princeton. To

April 8.

Princeton University, Milberg Gallery, Firestone

Library, 609-258-5049. "Art Deco Paris: 1900-1925," a portrait

of the spirited, affluent Parisian society of the early 20th century

manifest in the printmaking technique known as "pochoir."

The show features 100 color prints, including a folio by Matisse,

reflecting the era of jazz, tango, high fashion, and modern art. To

April 8.

Top Of Page
Other Museums

American Hungarian Museum, 300 Somerset Street, New

Brunswick,

732-846-5777. "Herend: Hungarian Porcelain at its Finest,"

an exhibition of hand-painted porcelain pieces created since the

company’s

founding in 1839. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to

4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To February 25. $5 donation.

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

Doylestown,

215-340-9800. "The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania

Impressionism."

Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest bequeathed 59 paintings that tell the

story of the renowned art colony, centered in New Hope, in the early

20th Century. Museum hours Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.;

Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9

p.m. To February 11. Admission $5 adults; $1.50 students.

Also, "In Line with Al Hirschfeld," a retrospective

documenting

Hirschfeld’s life, career, and the history of the performing arts.

Exhibit, with accompanying lecture, tour, and film series, to February

11. "Carved, Incised, Burnished and Gilded: The Bucks County

Framemaking

Tradition," featuring 50 objects that tell the story of the

region’s

well-regarded group of frame artists led by Frederick Harer and Ben

Badura; to March 18.

Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street,

New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. The newly expanded and renovated museum

features "Michael Mazur: A Print Retrospective" covering a

40-year span of the artist’s career, to February 16. Admission is

$3 for adults age 18 and up; free for children and students; admission

is free on the first Sunday of each month.

Also on exhibit: "Monotypes in Contemporary American

Printmaking"

from the rich resources of the Rutgers Archives for Printmaking

Studios,

to February 18. "Realities and Utopias: Abstract Painting from

the Dodge Collection," to January 14. "Opening Up: A

Half-Century

of Artistic Dialogue between Japan and the West" (ongoing). And

"A World of Stage: Designs for Theater, Opera, and Dance from

the Riabov Collection," to March 31.

Top Of Page
Art In Trenton

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park,

609-989-3632.

"What a Combo!," a shared show by Mel Leipzig and Vince

Ceglia.

To January 7.

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton,

609-586-0616. Fall-Winter Exhibition. In the Domestic Arts Building:

"James Dinerstein: New Sculpture," recent works in cast

bronze;

"Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture."

Show continues to April 8. 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. Annual

memberships

start at $45.

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

609-292-6464. "Recreating Flowers: The Glass Wonders of Paul J.

Stankard," to January 7."Dinosaurs, Ammonites & Asteroids," to

January 21. Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45

p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Closed Monday and state holidays.

On extended view: "New Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass and

Iron;"

"New Jersey’s Native Americans: The Archaeological Record;"

"Delaware Indians of New Jersey;" "The Sisler Collection

of North American Mammals;" "Of Rock and Fire; New Jersey

and the Great Ice Age;" "Dinosaur Turnpike: Treks through

New Jersey’s Piedmont;" "Amber: the Legendary Resin;"

and "Washington Crossing the Delaware."

Top Of Page
Art by the River

ABC Gallery, Lambertville Public Library, 6 Lilly Street,

609-397-0275. An exhibit of works by members of the Hunterdon

Watercolor

Society. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Friday

1 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To January 5.

Artists’ Gallery, 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville,

609-397-4588.

"Small Works Show" featuring drawing, painting, photography,

and sculpture by 18 gallery artists including Gail Bracegirdle, Alan

Klawans, Lisa Mahan, Marc Reed, and Annelies Van Dommelen. Friday,

Saturday, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To February 4.

Coryell Gallery, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville,

609-397-0804.

Holiday show features watercolors by Lucy Graves McVicker and casein

paintings by Katherine Steele Renninger. Gallery hours are Wednesday

to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To January 14.

Area Galleries

Montgomery Cultural Center, 1860 House, 124 Montgomery

Road, 609-921-3272. "Joel Popadics: Recent Traditional

Watercolors."

Also, the Professional Artists Group’s holiday show. Gallery hours

are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Both

shows to January 26.

Top Of Page
Art in the Workplace

Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Building Two,

Lawrenceville,

609-895-7307. A new series of oil on paper and mixed-media paintings

by Wanda Blake, a professional artist living in Morris County who

studied at Newark’s School of Fine and Industrial Arts. Curated by

Gary Snyder Fine Art, gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to

5 p.m. To January 26.


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