Ravens Gallery Opening
Note: This is a very long entry, some 4,500 words, 38 fotos, and two videos. It's a pity that browsers don't allow one to leave a bookmark specific not just to a webpage but also to a particular point within a page so one could go away, come back later, and pick up exactly where s/he left off. You'd think some browser would have come up with such a bookmark by now, wouldn't you?
The big event yesterday was the opening of Rupert Ravens Contemporary art gallery, Downtown. The evening started off with a bang. Literally. I was running late, and left my driveway a little after 6:30pm, in the rain and dark. I don't like to drive at nite or in the rain, and doubly dislike driving in rain at nite, because of lowered visibility and glare in my eyes, but it couldn't be helped. At the corner of my block, traffic going west was heavier than usual, and two buses blocked my view of eastbound traffic, into which I had to turn, which was not as heavy. There is no traffic lite at my corner, which is usually not a problem. Tonite it was. I thought I detected a lull in traffic in the lane beyond the buses into which I would have to make a left turn, so I nudged the nose of my car out tentatively, hoping to see the glare of headlites if anyone were coming. Bad move that I'll never make again. A car was coming, and altho it had just rounded the corner one short block away, that block is steeply downhill and the car picked up more speed than I anticipated, the driver saw me too late to beep, there was a parked car so she couldn't swerve, and the pavement was wet. Result: the classic fender-bender, first time I had ever had such an accident.
Some of the fotos below are a tad fuzzy because I was working without a tripod and mostly without flash. But they should suffice to give you a good sense of what they show, which may or may not relate to the adjoining text.
We pulled over and I walked back to see if the other driver was alrite. She was. We both conceded aloud that the accident was nobody's fault, since there wasn't much either of us could do to avoid it, since neither of us could see the other. It was much like a blind-driveway situation, or a hedge or tree at a corner blocking the view. Neither of us knew if we had to call the police for an accident report, so I called 911 and asked. The woman who answered said we probably did, since the damage might have exceeded $500, and connected us to dispatch, which took our location. (Tho I called from Newark, I was connected to East Orange Police because, said the officer there, I called from a cellphone, and that's how such calls are perceived.)
So we waited. I lent Takiya (the other driver) my cellphone to call a friend in the meantime. Tho it seemed longer, it took about 23 minutes for the (very polite) cop to get there, briefly survey the situation and ask if we were alrite (we were). We both stated to the officer that it was no one person's fault. He took the registration, insurance card, and license for each of us, filled out a report to submit, and gave us the number by which we could request that report after three or so business days. Then I was able to head Downtown, after a 3/4 hour delay. "Haste makes waste", indeed. Because there were other buses in the pipeline coming up the hill and I didn't just sit and wait for 3 minutes, or however long it would have taken for sightlines to have permitted me to proceed safely, I lost 45 minutes, plus a lowbeam headlite, and added a dent to my car. (I told Takiya that I don't mind a dent, as long as it doesn't interfere with my operating the vehicle. The car is old, and I don't want a car that looks too good, as might tempt car thieves. Car theft in Newark is way down from levels a decade ago, but I sometimes park on the street in Manhattan.)
I found 85 Market Street easily, since it's in the same block as Gallery Aferro, which I've been to more than once. 85 used to house The Furniture King, but a host of furniture stores in this vicinity have closed in recent years. As I observed here February 13th, the good news is that there are now some large venues for new businesses, like art galleries, to cater to an increased student residential population and visitors from out of town. I thought to myself that all he had to do is change "Furniture" to "Art" on the big sign still on the building.
This is the great big gallery mentioned in an important New York Times article May 6th ("Not Hot Just Yet, but Newark Is Starting to Percolate"), which contains this passage:
Last month Mr. Aratow helped deliver — rent free for at least a year — a 30,000-square-foot furniture warehouse on Market Street to Rupert Ravens, a curator who will turn it into New Jersey’s biggest gallery. Mr. Ravens, who helps coordinate the city’s annual artist studio tour, dreams of a Newark Biennial to rival art extravaganzas in Berlin, Venice and Miami.It certainly seemed like the right place on opening nite.
“This is the first time in my life I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time,” he said.
After taking a look around the front of the first floor, I found the refreshment area at the back and asked the bartender what kind of white wine they had. Pinot grigio. I said I'd heard of it but not tried it before but would now. He said, "There's a first time for everything", which somehow caused me to say I'd had my first auto accident tonite (as to say, so why not try pinot grigio?). He offered a very gratifying, "Ahhh" in sympathy.
Then I headed downstairs, to "Innovations: Brodsky Center", a spare exhibition in a windowless space.
Here are two closer views of the piece in that area that I liked best. The central feature seems to me to combine a cross, a sword, and a religious Virgin figure pierced by the sword.
Here's a closer view of the top (marred slitely by a reflection of the fluorescent lites). Cuban currency makes up much of the center of this work: the three-peso note with a portrait of Che Guevara on it.
I think this next work, a hologram, is in the Brodsky area too.
The lavatory is in the basement, but there's only one, so we had to wait. As three men stood in line, a woman joined the line and said now we know what it's like (to have to wait for a public lavatory, as women so often do). A blond (British?) man said it's not unusual for galleries to be very short on lavatories; added that in Manhattan there are places where several galleries share a single lavatory; and mentioned one by name, "Proposition" in Chelsea. The woman said that's not true of that gallery, because she is affiliated with it. I asked her name. She said "Grace Graupe-Pillard". I was startled, so introduced myself. She was a little startled too, because we had exchanged emails after last year's arts week. I showed a foto of one of her works as the 14th foto in my blog entry of October 23rd, 2006, and she wrote to introduce herself and express her appreciation. I asked for her card, but just then the door to the lavatory opened and she didn't want to hold up the line so said she'd find me later.
I then headed upstairs, heard music from the second (aboveground) floor, and headed further upstairs. There I saw another of the things I showed here last year (12th foto), a great big sphere made from metal strips. Here's the view thru and past it, from the back of the room.
It's a crappy picture — I should have used flash, since there was nobody to blind or annoy in that area at that moment — but I wanted to show it again. Nearby, I think, was a kinetic sculpture by Mark Esper, which I captured in a 22-second video. If the video player for either of the videos below does not work, just click on the link in the paragraph before it.
Then I walked further forward, and took this view of the front of the room and the band, Lil' Bastad.
The entire right side of this view shows a series of fotoshopped fotos of soldiers and warfare superimposed on local New Jersey scenes. (More on that later). The metal sheets on the floor puzzled me at first. I couldn't tell whether they were an artwork or some kind of repair to the floor. Only when I noticed that there were embossed numbers, one per panel (1, 2, 3, ...), did I know for sure that it was art, apparently a metallic hopscotch court.
As I went for a refill of wine, I saw a man who I suspected (from the description the bartender had given me) was Rupert Ravens himself, so asked. He said yes, and I introduced myself. To my surprise, he also knew of my blog (perhaps because I showed two of his works in an NJIT show last year. I asked if he'd pose for a picture. As we chatted while I lined up the shot, I said "So, now you're the Furniture King." And before I could say more he corrected me, "The art king". Darn. He stole my thunder. In any case, I took one picture without flash but asked if it would be OK to take one with flash. I didn't want to blind him but I did want to play safe. The second turned out; the first, not so much. (The faint round spot on the lower end of his jacket is not on the jacket but only the foto. I think somehow the briteness of his watch produced a visual echo. I don't know what else it could be, since it wasn't on the foto before or the foto after.)
I mentioned that I didn't see many plaques identifying the artists, and he said that they would be up soon but he was rushing to get everything ready for the opening, and not everything got done. As we were speaking, a woman walked up. "Ah, here's my mother." She was beaming with pride at how well everything was going. I spoke with her at some length later. But for now I returned to viewing and fotograffing other parts of the exhibit.
I found these elephants with intertwined trunks appealing, except that there are exposed spinal bones extending from the rear of the heads. I think there is something deep in the human creature that predisposes us to like elephants and horses. I particularly like African elephants, with their bigger ears, like these. In African elephants (but not Indian/Asian), both male and female have full tusks, which complicates determining whether these animals are fiting or caressing.
I liked these paired canvases, tho I don't know why they are touching the floor, nor whether the objects in them represent buildings or books. Paired as they are, they could be book-bookends. When I went to fotograf this next work I liked, a little girl who also apparently liked it decided she'd like to be in the picture. So here she is.
This next foto shows the front left window area as seen from the side. I wondered if the wooden sphere was by the same artist as the metal sphere on the second floor.
About then, I heard loud mezzo-soprano(?) singing and the ringing of a bell from the back of the room. Clarina Bezzola, a performance artist, was procéssing, in costume, pulling a long train (like a wedding dress's train, not a choochoo train) on a roller.
I don't know in what language (if any) she was singing, nor, consequently, what, if anything, she was saying. But she has an amazingly powerful voice. In the foto above, she strives to pass by a tall sculpture on the left and low sculpture on the right. Helpful people lifted up the left side to allow it to pass. That was the trip toward the front. Here she is on the way back, in the other half of the room.
I do not pretend to understand what she was expressing. I will, however, show you the "Jeff" (short) sculpture that is pair to the "Mutt" sculpture Ms. Bezzola had trouble getting past. The two appear to be sheets of slate (rock, or something made to look like slate) held up by a strong iron grate on four legs. The one below is perhaps 2½ to 3 feet tall. The one in the second foto below is the one Bezzola passed, and is perhaps 10 feet tall at its upper edge, so tall that I couldn't get the peak into the same picture as other pieces I wanted to include.
After the Bezzola performance, I was chatting with a couple of young ladies who were most impressed by the power of her voice. I asked the one holding a camera if she got pix of the performance. She was unhappy to report that the battery had given out before then. I remarked that that was a common problem, so I carry spares, then checked to see how many extras I had with me, pulling out first one, then two, then three spare lithium batteries. In outdoor fotografy in cold weather, I have had all four (including the one in the camera) drain to uselessness.
I asked if either of these girls would be willing to pose in a chair within a fiber-optic tent on the second floor, and one of them, Mia Cassell, agreed. This first foto is a wide view, as shows the anchor for the fibers on the floor and the view of Market Street thru the window beyond.
Here is a closer view, showing the effect of lite in and on the fibers.
Thank you, Mia.
The foto above shows one of the few works clearly labeled, "Blake Illuminated Print" 2003 by Alastair Noble. It appears to be the same subject in two forms, two- and three-dimensional. If there are differences, I didn't notice them. I was tempted to show a nearby abstract painting at this point, but I forgot whether I was holding the camera horizontal or vertical when I took the shot, and did not dare showing it the wrong way. I'd never hear the end of it, not that I know that many artists to be complained at by. That may change.
I saw Grace Graupe-Pillard sitting with a couple of people so approached to get the card promised earlier. She gave it to me (and I discovered on reading it later that she lives in Keyport, not far from where I grew up, in Middletown Township (both in Monmouth County)). I asked if she had anything in this show, and she said yes, hers were the several fotos combining military images with local landmarks on the second floor — which I had already fotograffed. I said, "Oh, the ones about the war brought home?", and she said "Exactly". I told her I had tried to get a closeup of the particular one that included the façade of the National Newark Building. I had to turn on flash because the pix without flash had been unusably fuzzy. But the surface is reflective, and even after I moved far to one side to avoid reflection of the flash, a reflection from lites above marred the upper portion of the scene.
Antiwar viewers will see this group of images as saying, "See what we have done? How would we like it if what we are doing in Iraq were happening to us at home?" Supporters of the war, seeing the identical situation, the war brought here, would say, "This is why we have to fite in Iraq, so this doesn't happen here!" Two-edged sword — or plowshare.
The conversation in the small group of us turned to whether such works were salable, and she said she has sold some abroad but not one here. Yet. But as Rupert said, everything in this show is for sale, so who knows? Most of the works on display, like the lace medallions above (doilies for Titans?), are not controversial.
Grace started to introduce me to three other artists who had works in the show. It turns out that I had already fotograffed the works of two of them, which happen to be in the same area, above. Patricia Leighton's visual megaliths flank Miriam Brumer's biological fantasmagorias.
In the close foto above, you can see some of the detail of Miriam's pieces. In the 4 minute and 24 second video below, she discusses these works. (I apologize for the liting in the video, which sometimes shows and sometimes obscures her face. I'm working with ambient lite only. And the sound picks up the lively crowd in the background. I have no unidirectional microfone to screen out everyone but her. But, then, you wouldn't hear my questions.)
In any event, here's another view of the works of the two artists Grace did introduce me to.
Patricia Leighton is originally from Scotland but now lives in New York. She says that these works are covered in sisal, a natural fiber most of us know from the coarse twine with fraying fibers that we get from Mexico. The twine is the fiber's natural color, blond, but Patricia dyes it darker.
By the time I returned to where Grace was sitting, the third artist she was going to introduce me to had moved on, but I chanced to catch up with him (Roy Crosse of Baltimore) later and asked which was his work. It just happened to be right nearby, a soft wall hanging with fotos on bricks below, called "Wailing Wall". At first he just stood by it, but I induced him to hold his arm out, as to present it to the viewer.
I didn't realize until I reviewed the fotos that that made it look like he was holding up the central circle with his hand. Here's the first foto, as he had originally wanted to be seen.
And here is one of the bricks imprinted with sad/gruesome fotos, at the foot of the fabric.
I suspect these opening receptions — parties — are really important to artists, whose work is mostly solitary, and not just because it keeps them human (the human creature being a social animal), but also in letting them see people's reactions to their work. Some artists, of course, are married and have families, but the people closest to you are often not the best judge of your work. Some are too kind, others dismissive: "No man is a prophet in his own land." Rupert Ravens seems to enjoy the full support of his family. Certainly his mother was effusive in her pride, and said that Rupert's (late) father, also named Rupert, was very proud and supportive of all four of his children (and all of them are doing very well today). A couple of times Lucille, who is ancestrally Italian, pronounced Newark "New Ark", but she explained that she has spent a lot of time in Delaware, and that's how it's pronounced in Delaware. Understandable. In this foto, Lucille is joined by her grandson, Rupert's son Gavin Rupert, a well-mannered young man who seemed very happy to be at the opening with his father and grandmother.
These receptions also give artists a chance to see not just other people's work, which they could do in a visit to a gallery outside the reception setting, but also the reactions of a large number of visitors to other artists' work, which they would not usually get from an independent tour of a gallery during regular business hours. There are other people, like writers, whose occupations also require them to be alone for extended periods of most days. They could use a good party every now and then too.
These gatherings also allow musicians and performance artists to reach an audience they might not otherwise reach. It occurs to me that dance has been absent from the receptions I've been to, save that the Ravens gallery opening did have the steppers from Shabazz High School. I missed them yesterday, due to my fender-bender and resulting delay, but trying to get to the gallery in time to see them is one reason I was too impatient simply to wait at my corner until I could clearly see that the way was safe. I had seen the Shabazz, and Weequahic, High School marching bands at an African Heritage Parade (pix toward the end of the second foto gallery on my Resurgence City website; search for "Shabazz") some years ago, so I have an idea of what I missed yesterday.