Heads Up!

August 10, 2012
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By John Burton

RB buildings host contemporary art show

RED BANK – It will be art alfresco for the public around the borough, starting this month and running until the early fall.

The New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art (NJ MoCA) will use a series of buildings in the borough’s business district to exhibit the work of Romanian artist Dumitru Gorzo. The exhibit, according to the museum’s founder Robin Parness Lipson and founding trustee Ellen Martin, will feature 50 to 55 of Gorzo’s expressionistic portraits of human faces and heads.

Ellen Martin, left, a founding trustee, and Robin Parness Lipson, founder of the New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art, have organized a public art exhibit in eight Red Bank buildings. The exhibit will open Aug. 19 and close in October.

Martin, who is a working artist, described the exhibit, appropriately entitled “Heads,” as “a large scale public exhibit,” with portraits measuring at 4-feet wide and 8-feet tall. The scale of the works will allow the public to experience up close and repeatedly, if they wish, “the psychological depth of the pieces.”

Gorzo’s subjects and execution “focuses on the universality of the human experience,” Lipson offered. “It’s bold, it’s intriguing, with layers of abstraction,” was how Lipson described Gorzo’s work, noting the artist has done similar outdoor exhibits in Europe.

The exhibit, expected to be installed Aug. 9, will be on display from Aug. 19 through Oct. 14 at a variety of venues: The Count Basie Theatre, Elsie’s Subs, Better House­keeping, all on Monmouth Street; Buona Sera Ristorante and Bar, Maple Avenue; the vacant former Anderson building, at the western end of Monmouth Street; Front Street Trattoria; Hamilton Jewelers, Broad Street; and the Red Bank Public Library, West Front Street.

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This is the second public art project for the burgeoning museum. The first, Lipson said, was in Asbury Park and exhibited the work of 37 artists, focusing on Americana.

The museum, which hasn’t established a permanent home, has to rely on alternative, innovative forums for its exhibits. A lack of a traditional space is hardly an impediment, and in some ways is liberating, Lipson explained. It allows the museum to advance its mission of presenting original and inventive art in a way that makes it accessible to large numbers. “One of the exciting things for us is to redefine what is a museum,” Lipson said.

“At some point we’ll have a permanent facility,” Lipson expects, “but it doesn’t have to be a cathedral.”  Tradi­tional museums can be “intimidating,” in their austerity, she said. They also can be off-putting with prohibitive costs and regular operating hours.

By using public space as a showcase for the artist’s work, people can walk through town day after day and “can experience the art in greater depth and gain more appreciation,” Martin said.

NJ MoCa’s emphasis “to make art accessible and identifiable,” is ideal for educators and their students, Lipson stressed. The museum is making an educational guide to assist teachers available and free on its website.

Lipson and Martin offered their appreciation for the support they have received from borough officials for this project. It was Red Bank’s long-standing reputation as a cultural hub that was “a huge part of why Red Bank was selected,” Martin noted.

“It’s all positive,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said of this exhibit and what he expects will be a relationship with the organization.

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Menna hopes NJ MoCa will consider making the borough its permanent home as it searches for a site. “Given the cultural scene at night, and especially on weekends, in Red Bank, I think contemporary art would be a natural fit,” he said.

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