Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jersey City Last Sunday

By Charles Kessler

Multiple exhibitions opened Sunday in two Jersey City venues: MANA Contemporary and Drawing Rooms.

MANA is by far the largest art storage facility in the metropolitan area, and it's also what can only be described as a gigantic art mall. On their million+ square-foot site they have a framer, a printer (Gary Lichtenstein Editions), a full-service foundry, more than 100 art studios, a dance studio (Karole Armitage is there now), the Richard Meier Model Museum, and thousands of square feet of exhibition space.

But there's something creepy about the place.
Hallway for the art studios at MANA.
It's all a little too much and too slick for my comfort, and they're secretive and impulsive with what seems like their unlimited resources. They are buying huge warehouses all around them and building many enormous, admittedly beautiful, exhibition spaces – all in a very short time.

But with all their money, and all their resources, in the past I've found their exhibitions to be thin and lackluster, and the artists that rented their studios (at least the ones I was able to see) were either amateurish on the one hand, or too-polished commercial on the other.


The Pellizzi Family Collections of Francesco Clemente and Chuck Connelly paintings had some of the best work of these artists, and from their best period – the early eighties.
Installation view, Francesco Clemente; on the right: Two Painters, 1980, gouache on 9 sheets of pondicherry paper joined with handwoven cotton strips, 67 3/4 x 95 1/2 inches.
Chuck Connelly's work has not been exhibited much lately, and it looked spectacular in this show – gutsy, mysterious subjects, and rich gorgeous color and brushwork.
Installation view, Chuck Connelly; on the left: Roller Coaster Car, 1984, oil on canvas, 90 1/2 x 108 1/4 inches.
Connelly became known in the early eighties along with Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat, but he never achieved the same acclaim as those two. I never understood why. I know, I know – he had a problem with alcoholism, and he was a difficult personality, but so was Basquiat, and Connelly's work is as least as good. A major Chuck Connelly retrospective would be invaluable.

Also, the work in MANA's artists' studios was terrific this visit. I don't have time to write about the art (I'm working on part 2 of my Koons post), but here are my top picks:
Catherine Haggarty – studio 590.
Geraldine Neuwirth – studio 570.
Ernestine Ruben - studio 468.
Rick Klauber - studio 432.
I wasn't able to take a good photograph of Danielle Frankenthal's work (who, I discovered, like me, is a former student and admirer of fellow LBAB writer, Carl Belz), so I took this one from her website.
Danielle Frankenthal – studio 504.
After MANA, I went to Downtown Jersey City to see Drawing Off the Wall, a series of installations expertly curated by Anne Trauben, on view at Drawing Rooms (until October 26th). The space is a former convent, and each of the small bedrooms has been converted to a gallery ideally suited to drawings and, as in this case, installations.

Again I don't have time to discuss the work, and only a few of the photographs I took are adequate, but all nine artists (Anne Q. McKeown, Anne Trauben, Maggie Ens, Jeanne Tremel, Suzan Shutan, Ellie Murphy, Nancy Baker, Kate Dodd and Larry Dell  – a refreshing eight of the nine are woman) did lively, playful and inventive installations.
Kate Dodd
Maggie Ens
Ellie Murphy
Jeanne Tremel
This is just a taste – go see the show!


Unknown said...

Nice! Thanks for the tips. Art to see to see!

Larry Dell said...


Just for the record my work was not an installation. I presented 8 of my most recent wall sculptures, 2 photo paper collages and a photo paper construction.

Larry Dell

Anonymous said...

I think mana might be the not for profit arm of Moishe storage

Anonymous said...

On point about MANA.

Kyle Gallup said...

Thanks for this post Charles. I've been meaning to make a visit since they opened. Would you like to meet me in Jersey sometime and make a visit together? Until then, great to see the photos and get your take on it...

Charles Kessler said...

I would like to go with you Kyle, but I should have said in the post that the artist studios are only opened every few months, although the exhibitions are open more often. I'll let you know when the next open house is.

Suzan Shutan said...

Thanks Charles for the Drawing off the Walls mention!