New Jersey arts venues offer provocative summer of exhibits
Looking for something other than sand and surf this summer?
New Jersey art museums from Montclair to Millville offer enticing and provocative art exhibitions, providing a cultural infusion and an alternatives to a day at the beach.
Emanation 2019, Museum of American Glass, WheatonArts, Millville
"Emanation'' 'is a biennial exhibition that enables contemporary artists who have not previously worked with the medium of glass to utilize Wheaton’s Hot Glass Studio and its skilled personnel. This year’s show was guest curated by Julie Courtney, who invited eight “adventurous” individuals at various stages of their art careers to participate in this experiential project.
The museum’s lobby is the setting of “Phantom Frequencies,” a “mini-opera” and installation by Martha McDonald and Laura Baird, whose collaboration connects with Wheaton’s glass history. From the impressive 12-foot blown glass horn to the hoop skirt adorned with medicine bottles, these are instruments created to play an original score with lyrics that include the confidential recipes by Dr. T. C. Wheaton discovered in the museum archives.
Although the glass objects on display have a silent presence, a video shows the pair dressed in simulated Victorian underwear performing in this parlor-like space or “maybe it’s a brothel!?,” as described by McDonald. T
The two artists will return for a live concert at the museum on November 9.
Nearby in his own gallery is Jesse Krimes’s “Strange Roots,” a multi-media installation that addresses prison reform, power and control, emphasizing how “punishment isn’t natural.” The interdisciplinary artist, 36, presents chilling data to reveal the racial and ethnic demographics of New Jersey’s prison population.
The wire cage sculptures both contain and constrict blown glass. Krimes “roots” trees that rise to the ceiling and sprout glass and plastic forms embellished with stereotype images generated by web searches of beauty and decay.
Sentenced on non-violent drug charges a year after his college graduation in 2008, Krimes was incarcerated for six years, including 12 months of pre-sentencing solitary confinement. Advocating for changes in the penal system, the artist is a messenger who understands the prison industrial complex that “enslaves people.”
He also recognizes the irony of his surname, even remarking about Jesse “as in Jesse James,” the notorious 19th-century outlaw!
While in prison, Krimes taught art classes for 53 cents per hour and secretly made his own art as “a form of resistance.” Coincidentally, he spent his last three years behind bars at Federal Correctional Institution at Fairton, less than nine miles from Wheaton.
“Everything I create is informed by my personal experience and ... the prison injustice system,” he said.
Moreover, Krimes was the lead plaintiff in a precedent-setting 2016 class-action lawsuit successfully won against JPMorgan Chase for its predatory practices and exorbitant hidden fees associated with prepaid debit cards issued to released federal prisoners.
Not to be overlooked near the perimeter of the museum grounds is Jo Yarrington’s “Uranium Game,” dealing with the “uses and abuses of uranium.”
On the floor of the 1876 Centre Grove Schoolhouse is the radiation-warning symbol in sand with 92 uranium glass spheres set like marbles but sized like bocce balls with photo-decals exploring the history of the nuclear industry. The visitor is encouraged to enter the building, close its door and press a red button to activate the green glow of the “electrons” and hear Allen Ginsberg rhythmically his poem chant “Hum Bomb.”
Go: 1000 Village Dr, Millville. On view until Dec.31. 856-825-6800; wheatonarts.org
Democratic Vistas: Whitman, Body, & Soul, Stedman Gallery, Rutgers-Camden
As part of the widespread regional celebration to honor Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday, this is a tribute fittingly held in the city where the literary celebrity had lived from 1873 until his death in 1892. Given the poet’s burial at Harleigh Cemetery, his perpetual bond with Camden is further sustained.
Tyler Hoffman, professor of English and Communication at Rutgers-Camden, who organized this group show, hopes visitors will appreciate “how influential Whitman’s life and work have been to artists across all media for generations after his death.”
The bard aptly proclaimed: “I do not doubt I am to meet you again, I am to see to it that I do not lose you.”
With 45 works by eight artists (two collaboratively “recreate” the poet’s parlor from his Mickle Street residence), the exhibit channels Whitman, who described himself as both “poet of the body” and “poet of the soul.” In addition, the nearby Walt Whitman House has loaned six artifacts, including the poignant bedside death report written by Dr. Alexander McAllister.
Go: N. 3rd St & Pearl, Camden. On view to Dec. 7. 856-825-6306; rcca.camden.rutgers.edu
11th Annual Paint Hammonton: Plein-Air Competition at Noyes Museum of Art at Stockton’s Kramer Hall-Hammonton
One of the most glorious aspects of summer for artists is working directly outdoors (plein air). So the Noyes solicited painters to set up their easels on June 1 at personally chosen sites around Hammonton. By sundown, the finished works were judged for display in this 11th annual event. Thus, 21 paintings are on view; particular notice goes to award winners, like Al Barker and Chuck Law, who painted plant stands outside the town’s Walmart.
Go: 30 Front St, Hammonton; On view through Aug.
100 Faces of War at Noyes Art Garage, Atlantic City
Noyes Arts Garage will host a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution presenting 100 oil portraits of Americans from every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, who served in some capacity during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chris McGurk of Orange is the only New Jersey representative.
Regardless of personal background, ran,k, military branch, or job, all subjects painted by Matt Mitchell are half-length and look directly at the viewer. The collective ensemble of equally sized (26 x 30 inches) canvases dating between 2005 and 2014 make a passionate visual statement.
Mitchell said, “There is no way to fully comprehend the American experience of these wars. .. . It may provide a small snapshot of our moment in history.”
This will be the project’s first showing in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.
Go: 2200 Fairmount Ave, Atlantic City. ''100 Faces' on view July 13 to Oct. 6. 609-626-3805 in Atlantic City, noyesmuseum.org
Tiananmen Square, 1989: Photographs by Khiang H. Hei at Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the student protests and massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Donna Gustafson, curator of American Art at the Zimmerli Art Museum, has organized a compelling exhibition of 30 color photographs by Khiang H. Hei, a Cambodian-born naturalized American citizen of Chinese-Cambodian ancestry.
While an undergraduate on an exchange program from the State University of New York at Oswego, he was studying in Beijing during the spring of 1989. Being in the right place at the right time, he took advantage of what was unfolding; it was a transformative, experience, establishing his career in photography.
He blended in with the students as an insider, yet he was also an outsider unable to speak Mandarin. His photographs reveal “the humble origins and evolution of protest” before the international press corps arrived. In a recent email from his home in Shenzhen, China, Hei fearlessly wrote, “I knew something big was happening according to history.”
Though he wasn’t then an art major and had no prior experience with street photography, he took “30-40 rolls of film . . . with my 50 mm normal lens” “I had to get close-up to the subjects.” Nonetheless, he stated: “I could not understand what was going on” but knew “the students demanded for greater reform.”
“The protests occurred almost weekly, leading up to the hunger strike, and eventually to martial law, and ended in bloodbath on June 4,” he recollected. Hei had to be cautious about developing his pictures, waiting until he left China before processing many of the images. After being “convinced” to leave, he decided to major in art upon his return to the United States, ultimately receiving both Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees.
The striking photographs not only document momentous happenings between April 15 and June 4, 1989, but they are compositionally fascinating, like the image of a visiting couple from Tibet in front of the main gate of the Forbidden City or the pile of bicycles left by supporters who had come to Tiananmen Square.
Go: 71 Hamilton St, New Brunswick.On view through July 31. 848-932-7237; zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu
Constructing Identity in America (1766-2017). Montclair Art Museum
This thought-provoking show displays 86 objects from the past to the present yet highlights a roster of contemporary art stars from the museum’s permanent collection (except for two works from private lenders). Gail Savitsky, the museum’s chief curator, selected the paintings, sculptures and works on paper by a thoroughly inclusive group of artists. Arranged around themes of civic, cultural/ethnic, artistic, religious, professional, socio-political, and group/tribal/community identities along with a sense of public and personal spaces, the exhibit poses the timely question: who are we?
“It reflects the diversity of our country, tolerance, and the best aspects of being an American,” remarked Savitsky.
Go: 3 S Mountain Ave, Montclair. Sept. 1 to Jan. 5. 937-746-5555, montclairartmuseum.org
Interference Fringe/ Tallur L. N.; Rebirth: Kang Muxiang, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton
Grounds for Sculpture's landscaped 42-acre park features more than 300 outdoor sculptures by an array of contemporary artists. Six works by Kang Muxiang, the Taiwanese artist who deserves greater recognition in the U.S., were recently installed on the grounds. These elegant organic forms are sensitively placed in conversation with selected pieces from the permanent collection.
Kang’s use of repurposed elevator cables (reclaimed from the high-speed elevators of Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest office buildings) are coiled and welded into sensually lyrical marine-like shapes that belie their industrial source.
Also on view in the Museum Building and Domestic Arts Building is a mid-career survey of 27 works, including a mesmerizing six-panel video of “carpet bombing,” by Tallur LN., “one of India’s most prolific and innovative sculptors.” Curated by Gary Garrido Schneider, executive director of Grounds for Sculpture, this is “Tallur’s most significant U. S. exhibition to date.” As a conceptualist, the artist deals with topical matters of cultural patrimony, globalism, and capitalism.
In quite novel ways, this site-specific and interactive display uses some unconventional materials like knock-off tourist souvenirs and charred bone chips as well as termite and white ant-eroded wood. Do not miss Tallur’s electromagnetic polishing system: “You can watch your money become civilized and well-mannered in front of your very eyes!”
Go: 80 Sculptors Way, 'Interference Fringe/ Tallur L. N.' on view until Jan. 5 and
'Rebirth: Kang Muxiang' on view to May 2020, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton. 609-586-0616, groundsforsculpture.org
Aurora Robson: Re:fuse, Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton
Aurora Robson loves trash, which dates back to her childhood. In this solo exhibit of 14 multi-media works, she uses plastic debris, junk mail and sundry other unusual materials like laundry detergent and milk bottles to transform what may seem negative into a positive.
Robson maintains: “Waste is merely displaced abundance.” Her ink and junk mail collages appear to have a whimsical, syncopated rhythm of soft colors yet suggest “the hidden value and potential in trash.”
Go: 7 Lower Center St, Clinton. On view until Sept. 1. 908-735-8415, hunterdonartmuseum.org
LandWorks/ WaterWorks, Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences, Loveladies
LandWorks will recognize the 50th anniversary of a historic group exhibition that had taken place between July 11 and 31, 1969, in Loveladies. Though the artists who had originally participated are now celebrated figures of the Earthworks movement, they “were inventing a new art here in New Jersey.”
A group of approximately 15 contemporary artists will connect with the conceptual issues first raised by those groundbreaking artists from the late 1960s. The show is planned to be both inside and outside its building.
WaterWorks is a group show of 13 contemporary artists to complement the preceding exhibition. These artists will deal with thematic aspects of water whether it is ocean, wetlands, etc.
Waterways and coastal scenes have frequently served as imagery for Joseph Sweeney, one of the show’s key participants. In addition, Diane Burko, another well-known Philadelphia artist, has long been attentive to climate change and its environmental impact on the planet. This pair of summer shows are billed as “one of LBIF’s most ambitious art exhibitions to date!”
Go: 120 Long Beach Blvd. LandWorks (June 28 to July 15)/ WaterWorks (July 26 to August 11). 609-494-1241; lbifoundation.org
Fred B. Adelson is a professor of art history at Rowan University. Contact him at email@example.com