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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
we did some good thinking about it and tapped into the oceans of
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
The Chinese lunar new year that ushered in the year of the dragon
prompted closer looks at origins and customs of the holiday, and
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
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
— still not-for-profit and meaning, to visitors, that it began
charging admission to the sculpture park, started a membership
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
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
along with her periodic travel and involvement in exhibition
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
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 —
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
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
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
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
told. What’s happening? Mass hypnotism? It’s the ascendancy of the
audio-cassette museum tour. Remember when people used to visit a
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
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
dumbing-down both clientele and artists, too — so neatly
rationalized, and pigeonholed, explained, positioned? Whatever
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
of the technical institute.
Rider University hosts a March 22 to April 15 show of Chinese
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
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
Visitors who go expecting to see a cohesive exhibition can prove the
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.
A holiday exhibit of original watercolors by the Russian-born
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
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
Topics addressed include early arrivals, family life, social
work and business pursuits, religious traditions, and anti-Semitism.
On view through March.
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.
609-683-4480. The new student-run professional gallery features,
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
of Chinese, Pre-Columbian Mayan, and African art are considered among
the museum’s most impressive.
The Graduate School continues its centennial observance with the
"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
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
732-846-5777. "Herend: Hungarian Porcelain at its Finest,"
an exhibition of hand-painted porcelain pieces created since the
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.
215-340-9800. "The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania
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
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
Tradition," featuring 50 objects that tell the story of the
well-regarded group of frame artists led by Frederick Harer and Ben
Badura; to March 18.
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
from the rich resources of the Rutgers Archives for Printmaking
to February 18. "Realities and Utopias: Abstract Painting from
the Dodge Collection," to January 14. "Opening Up: A
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.
"What a Combo!," a shared show by Mel Leipzig and Vince
To January 7.
609-586-0616. Fall-Winter Exhibition. In the Domestic Arts Building:
"James Dinerstein: New Sculpture," recent works in cast
"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
through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10 Sunday. Annual
start at $45.
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
"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."
609-397-0275. An exhibit of works by members of the Hunterdon
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.
"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.
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.
Road, 609-921-3272. "Joel Popadics: Recent Traditional
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.
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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