Corrections or additions?
This review by Nicole Plett was prepared for the
May 2, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Sculpture Springs Anew
The big white pedestal looms empty and pristine at
the center of the Gallery at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Beside it stands
70-year-old Geoffrey Hendricks, clad in a white shirt and white pants
and large black Wellington boots. Hendricks, a senior professor in
the visual arts at Rutgers, is tall and slender, his suitably
face topped with a gray cloud of close-cropped hair. His task is to
read some prepared remarks about the history of Mason Gross School
and its impact on contemporary American sculpture.
Yet the occurrence of art can be as fleeting and lovely as the spring
blossoms that bloom everywhere around us. So we watch as Hendricks
makes his move from podium to pedestal. Here he sits down and empties
the contents of a cloth tote bag: two big bunches of daffodils and
narcissus, a white pillow, a paper garland of some kind, muslin
and a pair of tiny brass cymbals.
Working fast now, he removes his big boots, rolls up his pants, and
proceeds to tie one daffodil bouquet to each of his lower legs. Next
he takes the garland of paper with printed letters and firmly knots
one end around each of his big toes. Adjusting his pillow to the
of the pedestal, he sounds a delicate chime of the cymbals. Then the
"senior professor" — through the miracle of human
and sheer fortitude — raises himself into a perfect headstand.
With his spring flowers now radiantly upright around each of his bare
feet, he spreads his legs sufficiently to unfurl the tangle of black
letters on white cards which now reads: "SCULPTURE IN
Thus the "Off the Wall" exhibit opened with a flourish last
Wednesday, April 25, at the giant pharmaceutical’s corporate gallery
in Lawrenceville. A major effort of curatorship and installation,
it features work by 27 sculptors affiliated with Rutgers’ Mason Gross
School of the Arts over a period of close to 50 years. Curated by
Kate Somers, its works are installed on the grounds, on the terrace
overlooking the lake, and in the gallery. The show will remain on
view to September 9.
Be assured that "Off the Wall" is no stroll
down memory lane. The show is multi-generational, yet there’s no
divide between youngsters and old-timers. (Former "student"
Gary Kuehn, for example, an early MFA graduate of the program, is
now chair of the department.) Each artist is represented by just one
work, and the work is hugely varied. And not only are lines between
generations blurred or non-existent, but, best of all, the show
almost all recent work made from the late ’90s through 2001. It
posthumous tributes to graduates George Segal and Herk Van Tongeren
(of the Johnson Atelier), each represented by a piece from the early
Although we’re dealing with a "school" of sorts (Claes
is said to have called it the "New Jersey School"), there’s
no uniformity. Yet the show does unfold into a cluster of related
themes: commonplace and found objects, assemblage and juxtaposition;
inventive use of technology; idea-driven art — and undercurrents
The largely overlooked art legacy of Rutgers University
was brought back into focus in 1999 with "Off Limits: Rutgers
University and the Avant-Garde, 1957 to 1963," a major exhibition
of its eight founding members, curated by Joseph Jacobs at the Newark
Museum of Art. The catalogue to that show, that includes five recent
essays, edited by Joan Marter and published by Rutgers University
Press, offers an invaluable companion to "Off the Wall" at
Bristol-Myers Squibb. It’s a comprehensive chronicle of these
of Happenings, Pop, Fluxus, and Conceptual art.
Geoffrey Hendricks’ introduction to the spare but serviceable catalog
that accompanies this "Off the Wall" show dates the Rutgers
era from 1957 and the coming together of a group of artists who
fed off each other’s energy. Hendricks had arrived as a young
in the Douglass art department in 1956, got involved in the Fluxus
movement in the mid-1960s, and has taught art at Rutgers now for some
The art of the Rutgers Group, as the elder artists are sometimes
had components both technological and mundane, and took art beyond
the bounds of Abstract Expressionism into the radical, provocative,
disturbing, and humorous. Allan Kaprow, father of the Happening,
at Rutgers in 1953 and by 1957 he was actively working there on his
genre-busting Environments. His colleagues of the time were luminaries
George Segal, Lucas Samaras, George Brecht, Robert Watts, and Robert
Together, these artists revolutionized not only art practices but
art pedagogy as well. As Hendricks observes, while the programs of
the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College were topics of discussion among
the Rutgers faculty, the desire was "to create something that
could be comparable but on our own terms."
Hendricks also quotes a 1957 manifesto by Brecht, Kaprow, and Watts
in which they state how "since the turn of the century, artists
and scientists have in reality become close allies in an examination
of form and structure, even though the alliance may not at once be
clear to all."
The Rutgers art programs grew and mutated over the next 20 years.
Mason Gross School of the Arts was founded in 1976 and had its own
faculty. And Whereas Douglass, Livingston, and Rutgers College each
had a distinct mission and faculty in the arts, these were brought
together in 1981 to form the program for Mason Gross. As Hendricks
notes, "the differences and the diversity of this combined faculty
gave the new school a special energy."
By the late 1960s, Kaprow could reminisce in an interview of how New
Jersey’s ex-urban mixture of natural fertility and industrial
had given the Rutgers artists their "feel for the
Kaprow also characterized the artists for their
noting the irony of the fact that "Rutgers was the catalyst in
all of this, in spite of itself."
One of "Off the Wall’s" signature works — this one by
a 30-year-old graduate — is Thomas Dorchak’s "Influence,"
1999, a kinetic wonder of polished silvery "daisy" forms that
rotate amiably — and aimlessly. The work’s feast of cultural and
art references provoke a myriad of involuntary smiles, from its
of the unbearable ’60s smiley-faces (which are entirely absent from
the work) to the decidedly Miro-like form of its wooden base.
Dorchak’s choice of a connected series of exposed belts and pulleys
driving the thing seems to poke gentle fun at his
forebears, the kinetic artists.
Among these forebears is the well-known Alice Aycock
whose motor-driven structure that stands nearby. "Clouds: Nothing
from Something, Something from Nothing" (1991) looks something
like an old Victrola, with rings of photo-etched brass that spin on
a disc, and a noise-making drumstick. The intriguing work was quiet
during the show’s opening, but as the artist describes it, the work
"suggests the impossible: that clouds can be played like a record,
and the music or sound can be broadcast."
Outdoors one of the strongest works of the group is Chakaia Booker’s
big, bold "(Wrench) (Wench) II," of 2001. Some eight-feet
high, and built of metal and rubber tire "leaves," it
a hugely powerful tool — though only a hand wrench — which
seems to perform its own sensuous dance. (Note the dozen or so bolts
than anchor it to its base.) Still redolent with its rubber tire
here’s a work that celebrates sculpture’s capacity to bring unlike
elements together and let them work on the viewer.
Keith Sonnier, one of the program’s earliest graduates, shows his
1994 wall sculpture "Tisket-a-Tasket," a darkly whimsical
study of our petrochemical society. It comprises a plastic laundry
basket hung with used bottles of STP, Mop-‘n-Glow, Dynamo, bleach,
and such. A graceful swirl of blue light, in the form of a tube of
neon, emanates from within the basket and circles around the outside.
One of the show’s most quiet additive works is Todd Lambrix’s modestly
beautiful "The Jargon of Turbulent Schisms" (2000). Three-feet
long and just a few inches high, the footstool-like form has a base
of finished wood upholstered in maroon Ultrasuede. The surface carries
a small landscape of straight pins, each one with a single grain of
wild rice affixed to its head. Delicacy notwithstanding, the
resonates with elusive significance, almost hums with the possibility
An important aspect of "Off the Wall" is the fact that the
formerly art-free greensward of the huge Bristol-Myers campus is
enhanced by several outdoor works. Out near the entrance is John
10-foot square construction, "Hand Stand." This ingenious
and imposing work is comprised of two stucco-like walls of abstract
shape which together, in the negative space of their meeting, portrays
the form of its uncomplicated title.
Also new on the campus grounds is Harry Gordon’s, "T," a
shape defined by two massive tree limbs incised with a chain saw or
other implement, and protected by a glossy resin. Gordon earned his
MFA at Rutgers in 1987. Today he resourcefully combines his own art
making and art teaching activities with a business venture, Harry
Gordon Studios, a company that specializes in handling, moving, and
installing sculpture — skills he provided for this show.
Judith Shumacher’s 2001 outdoor installation of 250 white traffic
cones is titled "Conefield 663662 000254" and carries a
UPC symbol to match emblazoned on one of its cones. Advancing on the
notorious art interests of Marcel Duchamp, Schumacher had the numbers
assigned to her by the Uniform Code Council when she registered as
a "manufacturer of one-of-a-kind art objects." Another work
in Duchamp’s tradition of Readymades is Rick Salafia’s "Objets
D’Art." At first glance it’s a gaudy red plastic bouquet that
proves, on closer viewing, to be an assemblage of darts on a dart
More traditional and by no means whimsical is the figurative work
by Robert T. Cooke titled "The Dummy." This cast iron clown
head — hollow, eyeless, with fat nose, and enormous ears —
perches on the edge of a conventional pink granite base. Where facial
features should be is an aggressive oval of white clown makeup paint,
with only the articulated red lips defined. The effect is chilling.
By reaching back in time with references to minstrelsy, placed in
an exhibit that specifically addresses the past 50 years in U.S.
the work evokes, for me, a grim commentary on the Sisyphean search
for equal rights.
Among the show’s less thorny but exciting works are Gary Kuehn’s
"The Second State," 1999-2000, a trio of wood forms in orange,
yellow, and black. These elegant, quasi-figurative truncated forms
raise thoughts of the historic "Torso Prize" as well as
and color field painting. Also impressive is Jackie Windsor’s
a 40-inch square cube built of wood lath. Dating from 1975, this
restrained but active beauty is also one of the show’s historic
Carson Fox’s "Twenty-Five Moments" is an assemblage of 25
hands hammered from thin sheets of corroded copper, somewhat rough
and impressionistic, like faded memories. These hollow forms suggest
sameness but also imply the infinite number of dissimilar actions
that our collective hand can make.
We’re told that Geoffrey Hendricks earned the title of
for his career-long study of the sky and creation of sky imagery.
And the sculpture he shows here is in many ways as ephemeral as his
valiant headstand, offered, he noted in the spirit of Allan Kaprow’s
innovative and sometimes whimsical Happenings. Titled "Sky Ladder
— Earth Box," Hendricks’ sculpture comprises a well-worn
ladder, suspended from the ceiling, that acts as a support for a
of evocative watercolor moonscapes. The series of pictures, tied
with brown twine, seem to rise up from an old wooden box on the floor,
hinged box with clasp and filled with common dirt.
Let no one say Hendricks fails to practice what he preaches: "Art
is indeed off the wall and in free play in the environment."
— Nicole Plett
206, Lawrenceville, 609-252-6275. An exhibit of works by 27 sculptors
affiliated with Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, curated by
Kate Somers. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
and weekends and holidays, 1 to 5 p.m. On view to September 9.
Dining room exhibition of watercolors by Charles E. Person, and
and pastels by Patrice Sprovieri. On view daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To May 16.
A solo exhibition of new paintings by European artist Georges Mazilu.
A resident of France, Mazilu is known for his signature style that
links modern surrealism with Northern Renaissance traditions. His
art is the subject of a retrospective catalog written by Princeton
art critic and historian Sam Hunter. Gallery hours are Tuesday to
Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. To May 22.
A student-curated show of works by Tony Gonzalez featuring his
series of studies of the Jersey Shore. The New York City artist
at Cooper Union. All profits from the sale of work 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. To May 18.
Drawings in the American Tradition," to June 17. "Great
II: The Art of the Print in the Western World" and "Spanish
Drawings," to June 10. "Le Corbusier at Princeton: 14 to 16
November 1935," to June 17. Also "A Tapestry by Karel van
Mander" to June 10. "Seeing Double: Copies and Copying in
the Arts of China," an exhibition of Chinese art, to July 1. 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.
"The Light of Ancient Athens: A Photographic Journey by Felix
Bonfils, 1868-’87," an historic series of 42 large-format
taken in Beirut by the 19th-century French photographer. To October
7. Open to the public weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday evenings
to 8 p.m.; and weekends, noon to 5 p.m.
609-620-6026. Annual alumni exhibition features works by M. Jay
’45, Cole Carothers ’67, and James Toia ’80. Gallery hours are Monday
to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; except Wednesday and Saturday, 9 a.m.
to noon. To June 2.
Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Preparing the Light," featuring
the stained glass, sculpture, and paintings by Kathleen Nicastro,
a member of the staff of the office of student relations. 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 May 29.
"Johnson Atelier Open," a group show featuring over 100 works
from the renowned Johnson Atelier sculpture foundry and stone studio
by 50 present and past artist apprentices and staff members. Museum
hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to
4 p.m. To June 3.
An exhibition of recent sculpture by New York artist and Rutgers
Gary Kuehn (also represented in "Off the Wall.") Working with
painted foam rubber and epoxy, Kuehn keeps expressive intervention
to a minimum in works that all begin with a more or less geometric
piece of foam rubber. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m. To May 3.
609-292-6464. "TAWA: Eyes on Trenton," a juried exhibition
of works in all media. Juried by longtime TAWA and New Jersey State
Museum member Molly Merlino, curator Margaret O’Reilly, and registrar
Jana Balsamo, the show features 65 works by 53 artists. Museum hours
Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
To May 10.
Also: "The Modernists;" "Fine and Decorative Arts
"New Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass and Iron;" "New
Native Americans;" "Delaware Indians of New Jersey;"
Sisler Collection of North American Mammals."
"Of Rock and Fire; New Jersey and the Great Ice Age;"
Turnpike: Treks through New Jersey’s Piedmont;" "Amber: the
Legendary Resin;" and "Washington Crossing the Delaware."
"Anything Goes," a shared show featuring works by Merle Citron
and Peter Petraglia. Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To May 6.
"Ordinary Secrets," a sculpture show by Stockton artist
Gibson. Sewing together tar paper, aluminum, roof flashing, plumbing
parts, and other common materials, she creates clothes with "a
life of their own." Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m.
to 5 p.m. To May 21.
Group show by the Art Group (or TAG) featuring delicate oils pastels
by Liz Adams, Chinese brush painting by Seow Chu See, graphites by
Judith Koppel, watercolors by Helen Post, and landscape work by Nadine
Berkowsky. To May 20.
609-397-3349. "Father Figure," a retrospective series of
by Paul Matthews, portraying of his father, T.S. Matthews, and
the years 1978 to 2001. Matthews was managing editor of Time magazine
from 1941 to 1949 and came to live with his son in Lambertville at
the end of his life. He died in England in 1991 shortly before his
90th birthday. Gallery is open daily, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed
Tuesday. To May 12.
"The New Surrealists" featuring limited edition prints and
lithographs by Mark Ryden, Eric White, and Joe Sorren. Pioneers of
the movement, these artists look for new frontiers where the bizarre,
the fantastic, and the beautiful merge. Curated by Jonathan Levine,
gallery hours are Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. To May
Brunswick, 732-846-5777. "The Art of Baron Laszlo Mednyansky in
Context: Works from the Salgo Trust for Education." An exhibition
of works by the turn-of-the-century aristocratic artist who disguised
himself as a pauper to paint grim images of the underbelly of society.
Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday,
1 to 4 p.m. Donation $5. To September 16.
908-735-8415. "Melvin Edwards: The Prints of a Sculptor,"
an exhibit of prints and works on paper by the artist best known for
his powerful work in welded steel. Edwards’ work makes metaphorical
references, both personal and historical, to the African-American
experience incorporating cultural references to his extensive travels
in Africa. He has taught at Rutgers Mason Gross School since 1972.
Museum hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To June 3.
215-340-9800. www.michenerartmuseum.org. "The
of Alfred Stieglitz" Georgia O’Keeffe’s Enduring Gift," a major
retrospective of the influential modernist’s owm works drawn from
a major collection given by O’Keeffe to the George Eastman House in
Rochester. To May 20.
Museum admission $6 adults; $2.50 students; under 12 free. 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.
New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. The newly expanded and renovated museum
features: "American Impressionism: Treasures from the Smithsonian
American Art Museum" and "The Exotic Flower: Constructions
of Femininity in Late 19th-Century French Art;" both shows to
May 20. "The Sum is Greater than the Parts: Collage and Assemblage
from the Dodge Collection," to May 6. "Confrontations:
from the Rutgers Archives for Printmaking Studios," to June 17.
"Traffic Patterns: Images of Transportation in American Prints
between the Wars," to June 3. "New Acquisitions from Central
Asia: Selections from the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Soviet
Nonconformist Art." To July 31. Also "Konenkov," to
Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.;
and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. $3 adults; under 18 free; museum is open
free to the public on the first Sunday of every month. Spotlight Tours
every Sunday at 2 and 2:45 p.m.
609-298-6970. Limited edition giclee prints by California artist Sally
Weathersby, a still life and landscape painter. Gallery hours are
Thursday through Saturday, 4 to 8 p.m. To May 20.
A giant exhibition of small artworks featuring miniature acrylic
by Florida artist Peggie Hornbrook and works by 30 area artists. Over
200 works will be on exhibit, all priced under $200. Gallery hours
are Wednesdays from 4 to 9 p.m. To May 26.
A new gallery in the tradition of "Art’s Garage," featuring
the paintings of Hopewell artist Alan Taback. Taback began his career
as a plein-air painter, moved to portraiture, and has most recently
turned to abstract figurative work. The gallery is open weekends,
and by appointment.
Sandra Nusblatt’s exhibition of watercolor house portraits and wicker
porch scenes painted in Princeton, Lambertville, Cape May, and other
historic locales. Shop hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To May 25.
Garden State Watercolor Society members’ juried exhibit. Jurors are
Lisa Tinsman and Michael Mercandante. Gallery is open Tuesday to
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To May 20.
Branch, 908-725-2110. "Humanity," a juried exhibition about
diversity on our planet. Juror Wayne Miyamoto of University of Hawaii,
has selected 40 pieces that look at difference and similarity in such
areas as origin and culture, time and place, work and play, politics
and religion. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4
p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. To June 2.
Trenton, 609-394-4000. A group show by the Princeton Photography Club
featuring nature photography, portraits, still life, and landscapes.
Show continues to May 18 in the main lobby gallery that is always
732-524-3698. "The Healing Garden Quilt Show," an exhibit
of 27 handmade quilts depicting plants that are being used or tested
for the treatment of cancer, created by the Northern Virginia Quilters
Group; to May 22. By appointment only.
609-895-7307. "Latent Images," an exhibition of photographs
by William Vandever curated by Gary Snyder Fine Art. Vandever works
in black and white, color, hand-colored, and digital photography.
Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To May 25.
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