By April W. Klimley, Art Critic
The July 4th weekend is a great time for gallery hopping. Many new exhibitions opened their doors last weekend, and I’m going to give you a run down on some of the most interesting—and provocative. The wide variety of artwork may surprise you, and some of it may even shock you.
A good place to start is at AJ Dillon gallery in Atlantic Highlands. The gallery has an exhibition that has been running all month called “Stars and Stripes Forever.” It ends on July 4th, but is well worth squeezing into your schedule.
Gallery owner Frank Leahy asked local artists to come up with their own interpretation of the American flag, or what they think of when they ponder the American flag. One interpretation that grabbed my attention was a large America flag hung sideways with Jimi Hendrix face painted on it. It’s called Don’t Tread on Red by Jana Moriarty. You’ll find it hanging in a place of distinction—a pillar-like wall to the right as you walk in the gallery.
Jana Moriarty, Don’t Tread on Red, Cloth wall hanging. 6.24.2015
This piece definitely resembles the pop art of the 1960s. Andy Warhols’ series of prints of Marilyn Monroe’s face comes to mind immediately because of its shock power. In this case, Hendrix’ face grabs the viewer’s attention just the way Marilyn’s did. But of course the message is very different, and it’s up to the viewer to decide what the artist is saying. To me, the artwork stands for the inclusiveness of this country.
But not everyone takes it that way. Some gallery viewers have been outraged by it and believe it is a desecration of the flag since a real American flat was used. I’m not so sure. I think the authenticity of the flat gives it its power. And putting Hendrix’ face on the flag is not exactly like burning the American flag which is what people were doing in my youth to protest Vietnam.
Nearby is another very colorful piece called Don’t Tread on the Med USA by Michael Shepherd. No one has gotten riled up over these fire breathing rattlesnakes. In fact, this picture certain captures something about the independence of the American spirit, and it is a clear allusion to the a flag used in the American Colonies during the Revolution.
Michael Shepherd, Don’t Tread on the Med USA, acrylic on canvas. 6.23.2015
You’ll find a more heartwarming interpretation of the flag further down in the gallery in a glass case. It’s an untitled piece by William Higgins that consists of miniature rocking chairs painted red, white, and blue with American flags flying from them. My imagination filled in this scene with grandpas and grandmas sitting in their rocking chairs on a small town porch while watching the July 4th parade go by. This small diorama is a delightful tribute to the pride we associate with our flag and country.
William Higgins, Untitled, diorama 6.23.2015
Don’t miss the group exhibit called “Honoring Summer” at CVA Gallery in the Center for Visual Arts at Bookdale Community College Campus
Miniature chairs popped up again when I attended the opening of “Honoring Summer” an exhibition at CVA Gallery on the Brookdale Campus last weekend. A select number of local artists are exhibited there, and the works of ceramic sculptor Mil Kobrinski are a highlight of the show. One of these pieces is at the end of the hall when you enter the exhibition. It’s a tall ceramic tree with small chairs hanging from it.
Mil Kobrinski, Pottery Takes a Front Seat, Clay and Wood, 7.19.2015
Mil Kobrinski, Detail of Pottery Takes a Front Seat, Clay and Wood, 7.19.2015
This chair tree sculpture is both beautiful and intriguing. Kobrinski explained the reference in the title to me. She told me that her original art teacher in Holland told her she had to choose between the “fine arts” of painting and sculpture—and crafts such as ceramics. Today, ceramics and pottery are definitely considered fine art. This piece of sculpture is a tribute to that transition, and the power and originality of the many works by Kobrinki has in the show are proof of that evolution.
Tri City News Publisher Dan Jacobson should stop pontificating about “the arts” in our region and let the experts write about it instead.
Kobrinski’s work reminded me of my irritation at Dan Jacobson’s latest rant about the art scene in Red Bank. It came out in the June 11th issue of his paper (which you can never find a week later since he refuses to put it online) when he wrote about the arrival of the Gotham Lounge (also called Gotham Fine Art Gallery) in Red Bank. The Gallery portion of the Lounge has exhibited artwork by nationally recognized artists (Peter Max) and sculptors (Bill Mack). So far, so good. I welcome this new speakeasy-style lounge—the music and entertainment it brings and the art it hangs on the walls. But Jacobson has a different take on this. In his article he claims local galleries have to exhibit artwork of nationally recognized artists such as Peter Max and Bill Mack in order to create the economic impetus for the Shore to become a major art center.
He’s totally off base. The Gotham Lounge/Gallery is a fine addition to our town. And its artwork is certainly a nice complement to the national and international artwork offered by two galleries already in Red Bank—Beacon Fine Arts Gallery and the Chetkin Gallery.
But does it help local artists? Does the sale of prints by some of these guys hanging on the walls of Gotham really help grow the local art scene, as Jacobson insists? Do we need these purchases of $20,000 to $150,000 (his numbers, not mine) to encourage a local art scene? He suggests that selling more of that artwork at the “highest end art market would be a godsend tor the most talented local artists.”
No so. What you need to build a local art scene is economic growth in local towns, talented people, and strong support for the arts. That’s what we have on the shore and why the arts are flourishing. Many forces have come together to create this surge—good arts programs at colleges such as Brookdale; top level teachers like Liz Schippert and Sven Widen; local arts organizations such as the Belmar Arts Council and the Art Alliance of Red Bank; and individual patrons.
Artist and art teacher Lizzi Schippert demonstrates different painting techniques on a summer evening in Red Bank during RiverCenter’s Saturday night summer art festival. ([email protected])
That’s how you build a thriving art scene. It doesn’t result from purchases of a few internationally known artists’ works in a gallery wine bar. Dan, look deeper into what’s good art before you write your next art rant on the “The Economics of Art.” The impetus for good art is talent, quality and vision, not economics.
More art shock in Red Bank and at the Lambs and Wolves.
Speaking of patrons, Glen Goldbaum is one of these. He’s the owner of Lambs and Wolves, a “one-of-a-kind hair den” on Bridge St. Goldbaum’s desire to find art that would make his shop even more den-like led him to Elle, a street artist from Brooklyn. More on that coming up. But first, you might want to see the mural-like artwork by Elle now displayed on the front of the Anderson building at the corner of Bridge and Monmouth. It is a stylized face of a woman staring straight at you. Frankly, the painting style is too cartoon-like for me. But on the other hand, the portrait is arresting, decorative, and its Latin flair fits in very well with the West Side of Red Bank, home to a large portion of the town’s Spanish-speaking residents (who now make up one-third of the 12,000 residents of the borough).
Elle, Mural, Anderson Building, Red Bank, 6.30.2015
Even if you are not crazy about this mural, I urge you to walk down Bridge Ave. to the Lambs and Wolves salon. There you will find additional work by Elle. Some of it, such as the wolf painting below, I found sort of scary. After all, why put this frightening animal in a painting in a place where women come to become more beautiful?
Elle, Wolf Painting, 6.30.2015
But don’t give up yet. Walk into the side room and look at the floor. There you’ll see a striking profile of a woman’s face in an Art Deco style painted by Elle. The profile jumps out from the glossy white floor and makes a strong impression. In fact, the drama and boldness of Elle’s style reminds me of German art during the first decades of the 20th century when a number of hard-edged, but emotional, schools of art flourished.
Elle, Floor of Lambs and Wolves, 6.30.2015
If you’re tired of all this “shock and awe,” drive over to Sea Bright and take a look at ArtSea Gallery.
There you’ll find a number of artistic gems crowded onto the walls or standing in the corners of this small gallery. Most of this art is for sale in this gallery cum gift shop cum artist studio. Two pieces on the walls right now made a strong impression on me. One is an oil by Hunter McKee entitled The Brother’s House. This composition gives off a haunting sense of peace and solitude almost like a painting by Edward Hopper—frozen in time. I was also intrigued by a magnificent bronze relief portrait of Albert Einstein by Joel Levinson. The portrait somehow captured the brilliance of the mind inside the man.
Hunter McKee, The Brother’s House, Oil. 6.23.2015
Joel Levinson, Einstein, Bronze Wall Relief Sculpture, 6.23.2015
Sadly, this is my last column about Fine Arts on the Jersey Shore—for now at least. At the end of July I’m moving to Boca Raton, Florida.
It has been a pleasure bringing alerts about upcoming exhibitions to fine arts lovers, along with my assessment of some of the most talented local artists. A vibrant Art Circuit has grown up here on the Shore over the last decade, and it’s been exciting write about it.
My only regret is that I didn’t have time to explore other towns on the Shore such as Asbury Park which has a very robust art scene and will have a new exhibition of mural art on the boardwalk this summer. Please visit that town to take a look.
Dates after the titles of the artwork refer to when it was photographed by the author for this column. No piece of artwork may be further reproduced without permission from the artist. April Klimley, art critic, maybe reached at 917-626-4838 or [email protected]
EXHIBITIONS MENTIONED IN THIS COLUMN
Atlantic Highlands “Stars and Stripes Forever” Group show
- AJ Dillon Fine Art Gallery, First Ave. 732-872-4281
- DATES: Through July 4
- HOURS OPEN: Wed-Sat. 11 to 5 (approximately)
Lincroft “Honoring Summer” Group show
- CVA Gallery on Brookdale College Campus, 732-224-2520
765 Newman Sprints Road
To the right of Parking Lot 2 (not Monmouth Museum)
- DATES: June 3 to July 29
- HOURS: Mon-Fri. 9 am to 4 pm
Red Bank Portrait Mural by Elle
- Anderson Building
- Corner of Monmouth St. and Bridge Ave.
Red Bank Paintings by Elle
- Lambs and Wolves (Beauty Salon) 732-530-5588
66 Bridge Ave.
- DATES: Ongoing
- HOURS: Call for hours
Sea Bright Various artworks
- ArtSea Gallery and Gift Shop, 732-530-3632
1112 Ocean Ave
- HOURS: Mon-Sunday: Call for details