Studio Lukach at Solo(s)
I attended the opening reception for the work of furniture designer 'Mike' Lukach Stefanoski last Saturday, October 1st.
The Lukach show is in a new exhibition space on the 5th floor of 972 Broad Street, next to the Rodino Federal Office Building. It is a ruf, unfinished area but larger than the ground-floor area where almost all Solo(s) shows have been held until now
Studio Lukach is:
A specialized division of Lukach Interiors Inc., STUDIO LUKACH handcrafts one-of-a-kind pieces that reflect a passion for clean lines and simple, yet striking forms. Combining traditional woodworking techniques with modern styling, STUDIO LUKACH creates furniture that is beyond ordinary in look, style and construction— functional art. With a completely minimalist approach, each piece makes a statement with a whisper, not a shout.
I arrived toward the tail end of the reception, it always being difficult for me to get out of the house. As I pressed the elevator call button in the lobby, I heard the skirr of a bagpipe. Perhaps, I thought, that's the music of the evening. As I stepped out on the fifth floor, I did indeed find a gentleman playing a bagpipe. I seem to have taken only video of that, so made this screenprint from the video. I showed the video itself yesterday.
Rebecca Jampol (principal of Solo(s) Project House) greeted me and remarked that I always arrive so late, as they were getting ready to wrap things up. She handed me the pricelist and said that after I've looked around, she'll introduce me to the artist. I mentioned that I love bagpipes — after all, I'm ¼ Irish, and possibly that much Scottish (tho I don't know for sure whether the Stevensons that my father's mother belonged to were Scottish, or if her Stevensons were English, or even something else).
Rebecca (not, as far as I have ever heard, "Becky") is a major figure in Newark arts, despite her tender years, starting with the defunct JaJo Gallery, proceeding thru the 239 Collective, and on thru Solo(s) Project House. Solo(s) started with a ground-floor space at 972, including the lobby, and has taken over other parts of that major office building, for both exhibition space and work studios for artists. Watch out, Newark. Thirty years hence, Rebecca Jampol might be a kindly, enlitened, Newark version of Manhattan's Leona Helmsley, a "Queen of Nice" as against Leona's "Queen of Mean". Who wouldn't prefer Rebecca to Leona?
Rebecca also had one of her female assistants (not Sharron at this show) bring me a plastic cup of white wine. Had I told Rebecca that I don't much care for red wine? I then walked around looking at the objects on display, and put down the 8½" x 11" pricelist and little cup of wine on a couple of them to show their size, in case I were to decide to crop out everything else that might show scale. The pieces almost all (but one) had glass tops, so there'd have been no harm even if the bottom of the cup had left a condensate ring (which it had not).
The foto above shows a wide view of one part of the room. This next, a wide view of another part of that large room. I had a hard time deciding which fotos to include and exclude for this post. That in turn meant I found it hard to put this post, text and fotos, together.
After I'd made a complete circuit, I asked Rebecca which of the people present was the artist, and she introduced us. I gave him my card, told him I have a fotoblog about Newark, and asked if he would pose for me by his favorite piece in the show. Tho he had no idea who I was, he consented, probably because Rebecca's intro gave me some legitimacy.
He then asked about my blog, which I didn't expect. I explained that the purpose of my blog is to increase appreciation for, and correct misconceptions about, Newark, as by showing things people might not expect, such as greenery, art, music, and other forms of culture, in order to counteract preposterous notions of Newark as urban hellhole. To show that even at worst, most of Newark was never an urban wasteland, and the Riots never devastated more than a tiny portion of the city. 'Mike' hadn't heard of the Riots, in that he is from Europe, and has been in NJ for only ten years(?) or so.
I told him that we had very bad Riots in 1967, when a number of other cities also had riots. Our tragic Riots (always a capital-R, when we talk of the Newark "Riots") killed 26 people, but other cities had riots the same year or before, like Detroit (43 dead in 1967) and Los Angeles (the Watts riots, 34 dead in 1965). I mentioned that somehow the word "Riots" does not attach to L.A., which has had riots something like 4 times (with 59 dead in 1992, the "worst riots in US history"), but did attach to Newark. How is it that L.A. gets a pass on FOUR riots, but Newark is stained for decades for ONE riot?
I said that enuf time has now gone by that a lot of young people don't know about the Newark Riots, but they still don't have good associations with the word "Newark". So I try to provide good associations not just by means of text, which would just be my word, but also with pictures, which could of course be falsified, but are more likely to be taken as indicative of reality. I also mentioned that I want to influence good people, and esp. artists now resident elsewhere in New Jersey (including him: Hasbrouck Heights, Bergen County), to move into Newark.
I didn't mention the concept of "critical mass", in which an explosion of cultural brilliance requires a certain, hard-to-quantify number of artists to be in residence. So much for that entire discussion, in case you had not heretofore understood the basic purpose to this blog. I don't imagine I would work so very hard on this blog if it were just to show my appreciation for a wonderful city whose reputation was already magnificent. No, I know that I need to make up for decades of abuse heaped upon Newark by, among others, people like Jay Leno, a bad person who kicks a man when he's down. Newark isn't nearly so far down as it used to be, so Leno may have to relent, and choose an easier target for his inhuman bullying. He keeps attacking New Jersey. For instance, on September 5th, he said:
Six million people were evacuated in New Jersey [because of Hurricane Irene]. Today, 3 went back."Not funny, moron. New Jersey is the most densely populated state of the Union, because more people want to live here than anywhere else in the country, per unit of area. You may now understand why I call Jay Leno "NBC's nasty crack" — picture a plumber under a sink.
I asked the artist where he was from. His English is very good, but there is a trace of some kind of accent. He's from Macedonia. I asked him from what part of Macedonia, because I knew that Mother Teresa was born in what is now Macedonia, Skopje, the capital, then part of the Ottoman Empire. He was a little surprised that I knew anything at all about Macedonia, because most Americans (and, probably, other people, even in Europe) don't know much of anything about Macedonia. I mentioned that in my youth I was very interested in international relations, so informed myself about much of the world.
Note the reflection onto the wall in the foto above, from the flash of my camera.
Some of my knowledge of the world from my high school days has been voided by more recent developments and the creation of new nations in, for instance, East Europe and esp. the Balkan Peninsula, but I've tried to keep up.
I had thought to join the Peace Corps, or State Department, or serve as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, ABC, or another major news organization, but was an appropriately sexual gay man in my youth, and could not bear the thought of living anywhere that I could not be myself and find physical companionship. I thus had to leave Monmouth County, New Jersey, and couldn't even move to NJ's great city, Newark, to be free. Not then, after my high school graduation in 1962. Not now. I find appalling that even in 2011, young gay men have to leave New Jersey to find happiness. I'm pretty much retired from the sexual hunt now, but would love to have gay bars to relax in and be with my own people, gay men, in. And I am certainly not averse to getting laid with an appealing man. People in general may wonder how old a person can be and still be sexually active. I don't know, because I'm almost 67, and am still annoyingly bothered with (homo)sexual thoughts. Such thoughts would of course not be annoying if there were places in Newark for gay men to meet each other. But there are not. Having to leave the place you were born and raised in, in order to be free is not unique to gay men, of course. But people are surprisingly much like salmon, in needing to return to their place of origin, their "roots", before they die.
I came back to New Jersey after 35 years in Manhattan. I didn't have to. I could, when I was squeezed out of Hell's Kitchen, have moved to Queens or outer Brooklyn or the Bronx. But I felt no connection to those places. So I went home to New Jersey, albeit to a place, Newark, I had never lived in before. And I'm supremely comfortable here. In 35 years, I had never connected with New York State, but always felt that the West Side of Manhattan, where I always lived within NYC, was in effect an extension of New Jersey. I could, after all, see NJ from the sidewalk outside my front door — and that was no accident, because I chose where to live so that I could always see NJ from my front door, across the Hudson River. People outside this region may not understand how intimately interconnected, emotionally, New Jersey and New York's West Side are.
I asked 'Mike' what he thinks about the controversy between Greece and Macedonia about the name "Macedonia", and whether today's Macedonia was actually the birthplace of Alexander the Great. He said he didn't care, and would be content to let Greece claim the name and glory of Alexander and his father, Philip of Macedon, if they'd just let present-day Macedonia, by any name, get on with its own existence.
After he posed by his own favorite artwork, 'Mike' agreeably posed as well by what I told him was my favorite, and agreed to stand where he'd block some unsightly pipes at the wall behind. It turns out that my favorite is also the favorite of many other people, so much so that it tops the front cover of the 4-page folder handed out at the Studio Lukach show. Mike's favorite is on the back cover.
'Mike' (which he said is actually something pronounced like — in my phonetic spelling system — méer.cha, if I remember correctly) has dark brown hair and eyes, which I would not have expected of someone from former Yugoslavia. (Linguistic sidebar: "Slav" and "slave" are related terms, from the era when so many Slavs were reduced to involuntary servitude in the early Middle Ages that that people's name, Slav, was extended to all people so reduced.) I don't know if Macedonians are Slavs, tho you'd think they'd have to be if they were included in "Yugo"-"Slavia", the land of the Southern Slavs. Many Slavs that I have met (Poles, Russians, Byelorussians) have lite brown, or even blond, hair, and blue eyes. Indeed, even Nazi Germany was willing to adopt as tho "Aryan" Slavic children of very fair skin, blue eyes, and blond hair. I don't know if Macedonians in general are as dark-haired and -eyed as 'Mike' Lukach Stefanoski. Nor do I even know why 'Mike' uses "Lukach" rather than "Stefanoski". I didn't ask, in part because I saw his full name on his business card only after I had already interviewed him.
I asked 'Mike' if he made any furniture with upholstery. All but one of the pieces in the present Solo(s) show is decidedly a table, but there is one wooden object that looks at least as much like a bench as a table. He said no, he does nothing with upholstery, but his father does. So 'Mike' is at least the second generation of furniture-makers in his family. If the father's upholstered furniture is as classy and clean-lined as the son's, it would seem ideal for people who like modernist furnishings, but with a little give — and comfort.
I'm not big on modernist furniture myself, tho in the days when my best friend was an architect specializing in interiors, I came to appreciate Eames chairs, Barcelona chairs, egg chairs, thick-glass-topped tables, and other such furniture. I'm not keen on such spare, clean lines for my own home now, however. I have had a coffee table with a thick glass top, and mentioned to 'Mike' that I'm glad that some of his tables don't have sharp edges to their glass tops, but only curves, since I have walked into the edge of a glass table, and it hurt like he...ck.
I asked if the two pieces near the entrance from the elevator, a woven-wood table on the floor (below) and a matching, woven-wood panel that hung from the ceiling (shown above), were intended to go together. Yes. But it's not compulsory. The hanging panel, he said, is lined around the top edges by LED lites, which would provide good, indirect lite in a normal-sized room (tho not in an area the size of the 5th-floor exhibition space of Solo(s) Project House).
I noticed that all the objects in the exhibition are at coffee-table height (which you can see in the video yesterday that shows a bagpiper walking near a number of them), and thought, later, "How about dining tables, counter seating, dry bars/wet bars? They all could have clean lines and glass tops."
The Studio Lukach show ("Lukach" is pronounced with a CH-sound, as in "church") runs until October 14th.