Art Review: ‘Hearing (Diverse) Voices’

Art in Town

Campus Arts

Art in the Workplace

Art by the River

Area Galleries

Art In Trenton

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This article by F.R. Rivera was prepared for the March 10, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Top Drawer Drawing Show

To borrow a phrase from Judy Masterson, “This one will blow your socks off.” She is speaking of the 2004 edition of the National Drawing Show. During Masterson’s 15-year tenure as the gallery director at the College of New Jersey, this biennial survey has rarely disappointed. This year’s exhibition is no exception.

Whether these shows are good, or very good like this one, is dependent on two variables: the number of submissions (the more the better) and the eye of the juror. There were 399 works submitted by 200 artists this year; and the juror was Thomas George, a painter and draftsman with an unblinking eye for quality and a keen sense of the broad ecumenical nature of drawing. He selected 44 finalists.

On view is the work of 11 veterans of past shows, plus that of dozens of promising newcomers hailing from 16 states. With 200 artists to choose from George might have been tempted to cobble together a show with a visual ideology. Not so. He simply enlarges our understanding of what a good drawing ought to be.

Some of my favorites include a little pencil drawing, entitled “Bride” by Janelle Mullen-Trosclair of Louisiana. This drawing is a rendering of a 40-something, newly-married, no groom in sight, who seems to have stalled her motorized wheelchair on a garden path of some urban mall. Another is a representation of a masked bandit (“Black Velvet Diva”) by Liz Goldberg-Johnson. This piece is funny and breezy and very a la Jean-Michel Basquiat.

A third equally quirky piece is “Flash Poupee” by Ruth Santee. It is a 3-D compilation of baby-doll arms and legs, which have been obssessively embellished in fine tattoo-like linear detail with the tiniest little faces of other baby dolls, leaving no surface uncovered.

Robin Sherin of New York has positioned sheets of ribbed cardboard, suggesting perhaps the Twin Towers — or some coded reference to the late American minimalist sculptor, Donald Judd. Sherin, like half the artists in this exhibition, uses color. Whereas her color is reductive (red and blue) and highly organized, the color of Phillip Chan and Alice Harrison is multiplied many times over and then whipped into a foaming frenzy.

Using an oil stick to draw, Chan and Harrison lead us to the threshold of painting without crossing over. Harrison is non-objective and her colors resemble creamy fruit yogurts. Chan is figurative. In a piece entitled “Fallen Angel,” he shreds his color into ribbons and gives us one spectacular meltdown.

On a more traditional note, purchase award winners Nicolette Ausschnitt, Darius Menard, and Geneva McCoy present all we need of color in living black and white. The best smoky grays can be seen in an utterly drop-dead beautiful sumi-e ink drawing by Edith Hillinger of California, entitled “Six Echeveria Leaves.”

Masterson says that the call for entries went out early and appeared in several national art publications. The pay-off is a fine show culled from throughout the nation and delivered fresh to our doorstep.

— F.R. Rivera

National Drawing Exhibition, College of New Jersey, Art Gallery, Holman Hall, Ewing, 609-771-2198. Exhibition features 45 works accepted from among 400 entries submitted from across the country. Show runs to March 31.

Gallery open Monday through Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Thursdays 7 to 9 p.m.; and Sundays, 1 to 3 p.m. Closed during Spring Break, March 7 to 14.

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Art Review: ‘Hearing (Diverse) Voices’

Hearing Voices” at the Gallery at Bristol-Myers Squibb celebrates the ethnicity of its exhibitors, who are African, Chinese, Japanese, Native American, Indian, Lebanese, French, and Latino. Ethnicity is relevant so long as it does not pull the artist along like cargo in a trailer hitch. To salute ethnicity could be like saluting “Dutchness,” for example, as a pre-requisite for appreciating the art of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and DeKooning.

The gallery is one of 24 New Jersey venues that have united for the year-long “Transcultural New Jersey” initiative, a project intended to spotlight the work of state’s diverse visual arts community. (See sidebar, page 33.)

There is a video message on PBS Public Television in which speakers, obviously from very divergent backgrounds, utter the words, “I am an American.” This video message delivers more wallop in that one lean declaration than do all the overt trappings of ethnicity in this show.

Particularly irksome are the catalog’s labored defenses of ethnicity in the profiles of individual artists. Catalog statements proclaim how the ancestral past — sometimes many generations removed — has influenced the artists’ present perceptions. With few exceptions, too many in this show make a wrong turn in their search for ethnic Nirvana.

In order to evoke his Cuban roots, for example, E. Jorge Gomez glues down a layer of chopped fodder — mixed tobacco leaves and sand. Then he over-paints the crusty blend with cloud forms and a few bolts of lightning (“Tropical Storm”).

Photographer Julia Cowing presents a 12-panel grid of large images in a piece, entitled “I American Series,” giving the viewer her take on growing up Chinese-American. Individual panel titles such as “World’s Best Mom,” “Trophy Daughter,” and “Merry Christmas” celebrate daily family life — perhaps a trifle boring, but at least honest until they are gilded over with gimmicky juxtapositions like little porcelain dolls of Confucius standing watch over Christmas stockings. Satin slippers next to stiletto heels (meant for the same pretty feet) suggest cultural struggle between Chinese and American — or perhaps between Cowings’ generation and that of her mother.

Hanibal Srouji tries to conjure the destruction of Lebanon’s 16-year civil war by some selective blasting at the canvas with a blow torch. Hang on, it gets worse. A mere wrong turn can lead to a dead-end, creating the visual equivalent of a blooper, as in the case of Debra Priestly. Having found her ancestors in the form of vintage photos, she seals the photos into mason jars, using a digital scanning technique. In some twist of convoluted logic, Granny canned, so why not can granny? Priestly’s quarry seem to stare out at the viewer with weary resignation.

The worst problem with this show — and there are several — is the premise that ethnic art is inherently more genuine than other art. As Bristol-Myers Squibb’s vice president and corporate secretary Sandra Leung said in her introduction: “We see in the art on display. . . that the emotions and struggles [the artists] have faced . . . are the direct result of their race or ethnicity.”

Commercial art dealers may adopt this premise as a selling gambit that earns them their mark-up. The June Kelly Gallery of New York loaned the work of six artists in its stable for this show. Yet when artists get hijacked by the notion that ethnic art is better than other art, there’s trouble in River City.

One of the artists in the Squibb exhibition, Peter Arakawa pleads innocent. He confesses that all he ever knew of his heritage is that he was an American until he was in college where someone pointed out his Japanese descent.

Arakawa’s experience leads one to hope that perhaps the trend will go silently under before the public is exposed to some further refinement — like the Art of the Ayatollahs.

— F.R. Rivera

Gallery at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Route 206, Lawrenceville, 609-252-6275. “Hearing Voices: Personal Narratives,” a group exhibition. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends, 1 to 5 p.m. To April 11.

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Art in Town

Anne Reid Art Gallery, Princeton Day School, 650 Great Road, 609-924-6700. A juried invitational exhibition of works by students from area high schools. On view to April 1.

Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-924-7206. An exhibit of handmade quits by Princeton resident Laura Hill. A childcare provider for almost 30 years, Hill took her first quilting class when she started in business. She is always on the lookout for fabric and her quilt designs incorporate prints from all over America. Gallery is open by appointment during school hours. To March 12.

Hills Gallery, 195 Nassau Street, 609-252-0909. Exhibition of a private collection that includes signed and numbered lithographs by Picasso, Chagall, and Matisse. Also smaller etchings by Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, and Cassatt. To March 30.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. “Lost Princeton,” an exhibit that explores lost businesses and houses. The historic house also houses a long-term exhibition about Princeton history highlighting the Native American occupation, the Revolutionary War, and Princeton in the 19th and 20th centuries. Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Free admission.

Princeton Public Library Cafe, Princeton Shopping Center, North Harrison, 609-924-9529. Pen and ink sketches and watercolor prints by Sergio Bonotto. Scenes of the Princeton area and sketches of Europe during World War II. Cafe hours are Monday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays.

University Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street, 609-497-4000. “Princeton Impressions” by Olga Holroyd features impressionist oil paintings of Princeton including the university and the Delaware-Raritan Canal. She studied at the University of Illinois; her paintings are in private collections in the U.S. To March 24.

Witherspoon Gallery, 27 Witherspoon Street, 609-279-1592. Metal sculpture by James Howell is on exhibit. The gallery, is open daily 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. To March 17.

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Campus Arts

Princeton University Art Museum, McCosh 50, 609-258-3788. “The Book of Kings: Art, War, and the Morgan Library’s Medieval Picture Bible,” an exhibition of the Picture Bible, one of the greatest illuminated manuscripts of the 13th century, commissioned by Louis IX of France. The manuscript has been unbound for conservation and study with many individual pages on exhibit. 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. Free admission. To June 6.

The exhibition explores ways in which Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures used storytelling to define themselves and their values. Related events include a colloquium on The Book of Kings, Saturday, March 27, in McCormick 101. Registration required at On Sunday, May 9, the Princeton Singers present “Royal Splendor: Music from the Book of Kings,” a program of music of the period; registration at 609-258-3043.

Also on view: “The Art of the Print in the Western World,” a survey of prints from the museum’s collection by major European and American artists from the Renaissance to the present featuring Goya, Rembrandt, and Picasso; to March 14. Also “Songs, Psalms, and Praises: An 18th-century Ethiopian Manuscript,” on exhibit to June 5, 2005. “Robert Adams: From the Missouri West” presents a recently acquired collection of 28 landscape photographs by Robert Adams taken between 1975 and 1978; to June 6. “Imperial Portraits by Van Meytens the Younger and Roslin” features newly acquired portraits of Tsarovich Paul, Maria Feodorovna, and empress Maria Theresa of the Holy Roman Empire, on view to July 11.

Bernstein Gallery, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School, 609-258-5566. The Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton is featured in an exhibition of 35 photographs by Nancy Hodges and Chrissie Knight that tells the story of the organization’s work to prevent hunger and homelessness in Mercer County. Show is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. To April 9.

Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20 Library Place, 609-497-7990. “A Photographic Journey,” nature photography by Heinz and Maria Gartlgruber. Open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. To March 12.

Rider University Art Gallery, Student Center, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, 609-895-5588. “Joseph Fiore: 25 Years of Paintings from Rock Fragments.” Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. To March 28.

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Art in the Workplace

Capital Health System, Mercer Campus, 446 Bellevue Avenue, Trenton, 609-394-4023. In the Lobby Gallery, an exhibition of surreal paintings by William B. Hogan. A member of the Trenton Artists Workshop Association, Hogan and his wife Susan Hogan and recent transplants to Lower Makefield. Bill Hogan worked for 25 years as an editorial illustrator and cartoonist for the Hackensack Record newspaper. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. To April 9.

Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hopewell Campus, 609-252-5120. Outdoor sculpture show features works by seven prominent East Coast artists: Hope Carter of Hopewell, Kate Dodd, Richard Heinrich, John Isherwood, Joel Perlman, John Van Alstine, and Jay Wholley. Exhibition is on view during business hours and will remain in its location for two years.

The artists were selected by a panel composed of Alejandro Anreus, veteran curator and scholar, Jeffrey Nathanson of the International Sculpture Center, and visual artist Sheba Sharrow, working under the guidance of Kate Somers, curator of the company’s corporate gallery in Lawrenceville.

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Art by the River

Artists’ Gallery, 32 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-4588. “People & Places,” an exhibit by Bucks county oil painter Sal Asaro. His second annual spring show features recent plein air landscapes and paintings of figures. Locations range from the Amish country, to the Italian Market in Philadelphia, Italy, and Sicily. Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To Sunday, April 4.

E.M. Adams Gallery, 440 Union Square Drive, New Hope, 215-862-5667. New paintings by owner Ed Adams features. Adams is also a licensed psychologist with a private practice in Somerville. Adams also leads the support group Men Mentoring Men.

Atelier Gallery, 108 Harrison Street, Frenchtown, 908-996-9992. “Beyond the Image II, a two person show featuring art by Margaret Kennard Johnson and Barry Snyder. Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 27.

Coryell Gallery, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-0804. The 24th annual juried art exhibition, “Lambertville and the Surrounding Area,” co-sponsored by the Lambertville Historical Society and selected by juror Douglas Wiltraut. Among the nine artists awarded cash prizes are Robert Sakson for his watercolor “Union Street,” and Marge Chavooshion for “Shadows on Bridge Street.” Other prize winners are Colette Sexton, Mike Filipiak, Pamela M. Miller, Michael Budden, Charles Ross, John Ennis, and Christyl Cusworth. Open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 14.

Louisa Melrose Gallery, 41 Bridge Street, Frenchtown, 908-996-1470. W. Carl Burger, recent oils and watercolors. Burger has been honored with retrospective shows at the Morris Museum and at the Noyes Museum. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To March 31.

New Hope Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, New Hope, 215-862-3396. The New Hope Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition continues with works by sculptors Christoph Spath, Kate Brockman, Rob Ressler, Dana Stewart, Dan Kainz, and Bob Emser. Host sites include George E. Michael Inc., Union Square, New Hope Solebury Library, the Wedgwood Inn, New Hope Historical Society, Golden Door Gallery, and New Hope Mule Barge. To April 30.

Peggy Lewis Gallery, Lambertville Public Library, 6 Lilly Street, 609-397-0275. “Sunset Park Paintings,” an exhibition of abstract compositions by Michael J. Farmer. Gallery hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday 1 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To March 26.

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Area Galleries

Allentown Art and Frame, at the Old Mill, 42 South Main Street, 609-259-3535. Gallery is celebrating its second anniversary by introducing “The Soubor Collection” featuring works by Octavio Ocampo, Nora Motano, Marjara, Luis Ignacio Ortiz, and others, as well as crafts, jewelry, pottery, pre-Colombian replicas, and gifts from Latin America. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511. “Fan Palms” by Jay Goodkind and “Strength and Sensuality” by Edward Greenblat. Open Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment. To March 21.

Goodkind describes himself as a classic black-and-white photographer whose work reflects the beauty he finds around him, beauty often missed by the casual observers as they hurry through their day. He uses large format cameras and traditional darkroom chemistry. His latest series of studies of the fan palms of the Hawaiian islands records how the fronds are in almost constant motion beneath the variable reflection of the changing light.

Greenblat’s series “Strength and Sensuality” depicts the human body in form and motion. His previous work on dance photography showed the beauty of motion and the joy of dance. In this exhibit, created in collaboration with his model, Greenblat celebrates the sensual strength of a woman dedicated to fitness.

Lawrenceville Inn, 2691 Main Street, Lawrenceville, 609-219-1900. Oils and watercolors by John McDowell Williams. Open every day 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Printmaking Council of New Jersey, 440 River Road, North Branch Station, 908-725-2110. “Emanent Formations,” an invitational exhibit featuring four New Jersey printmakers. Works by Diana Gonzalez-Gandolfi, Karen Guancione, Margaret Kennard Johnson, and Stephen McKenzie are featured. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. To May 8.

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Art In Trenton

Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park, 609-989-3632. Joan Giordano and Khalilah Sabree, “Arrested Light and Texture Captured in Two and Three Dimensions.” Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. To April 11.

Extension Gallery, 60 Sculptors Way, Mercerville, 609-890-7777. Exhibit of sculpture by Oki Fukunaga. Born in Japan, he received his BFA in metal craft in Japan. He joined the Apprentice Program at the Johnson Atelier in April, 2002. This is his first solo show. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To March 26.

Grounds for Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, 609-586-0616. Outdoors, the Fall/ Winter Exhibition. In the Domestic Arts Building, “Amazing Animal Exposition” features works by Botero, Butterfield, Grausman, Otterness, Petersen, and Woytuk; Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards Exhibition. Also, “Focus on Sculpture 2004,” an annual juried exhibition of photographs by amateur photographers.. Also, new additions outdoors by Seymour Ikenson, Wendy Lehman, Linda M. Ogden, Dorothy Ruddick, and Autin Wright. Shows on view to April 18.

Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., November to March; open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., April to October. Sunday is Members Day (non-members pay $12 per person). Closed Mondays except Labor Day and Memorial Day.

Adult admission is $5 Tuesday to Thursday; $8 Friday and Saturday; with discounts for students, seniors, and children. Admission $12 per person on Sundays. Individual memberships start at $70.

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