Monday, September 16, 2013

Selection Connections

A healthy sexuality with an even healthier dose of humor seems one of the many themes coalescing together  at Strange Bedfellows, a group show at the 313Gallery, the former hattery turned gallery (and studio space)which you may recall from here.  

Curated by Ana Benaroya, Strange Bedfellows showcased her work, alongside BrunoNadalin, Ahu Sulker, Marina Kharkover and Amy Tamayo.

Alongside may be the key word.  Typically, in Jersey City so far at least it seems, a group show featuring a small group of participants means each artists gets a “wing” of the gallery, and the viewer has no doubt whose art he or she is experiencing.

Strange Bedfellows follows an opposite organizational principal. The individual identity of the artist has little priority. 313 has an urban feel – literally and figuratively post-industrial – but it is roomy and glare-free lit, with the white brick walls of the space cleanly presenting the work and allowing the Strange Fellow display to gradually develop in the viewer’s mind its own aesthetic, prompting both apparent and subconscious connections – neon primitive styled masks, grotesques nudes with exaggerated breasts and massive flab that recall Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python phase, a middle-eastern man with four eyes, a squalid, impressionistic scene of a naked woman on small bed in a cramped living space, a shadowy figure in the foreground. Erotica may be represented – and the compelling nature of Eros tends to out-lure attention from other images, but other images – from neon primitives to illustrated portraiture – do abound. A humanism echoes throughout, a realistic distortion of the ideal. Perhaps the strangest bedfellows are our physical self and our inner identity.  The show also compellingly combines acrylics, oils and inks, illustration, color sketches and graphic design; an antic energy is evident, one barely contained by the images presented.

The poster for the show proclaims Strange Bedfellows to be narrative art, and indeed the images suggest a story that led to the moment depicted, but the placement of these works suggest other narratives as well. Strange Bedfellows actually impacts the context and subtext from what seems to be by both intention and accident. The selection of art in which Strange Bedfellows consists exceeds the sum of its parts.

Maybe a small sign, but a sign nonetheless of an evolution of sorts in the Jersey City Arts scene (God, do we need another word than scene when talking about Jersey City art and artists or what!). Most art shows have either showcased a single artist, others a potpourri – often more than the six Strange Bedfellows – and while fine examples of Jersey City art, these exhibits can often fall short of cohesion, with little curatorial concern about the ultimate experience. 313 Gallery is a newer space, and one of the few gallery spaces in town that are more than just walls made available by a hip-eatery or a temporary raw-space donated by an arts-friendly developer. 313 Gallery is attempting to be a an art gallery destination, with  regular weekend and by appointment hours, which like a cumulative experience Strange Bedfellows provides, is notably new for Jersey City. 


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