THE DIVINE AND SUBLIME, 10/23/15 - 11/22/15
ARTIST RECEPTION, Sunday, 10/2515, 3pm - 6pm
THE DIVINE AND SUBLIME, curated by Anne Trauben, features 8 artists in 9 gallery rooms showing drawing, painting, sculpture and installation. Fitting for our unique gallery space, a former convent, THE DIVINE AND SUBLIME is an exhibition of works exploring the contemplative, consciousness, nature as a spiritual experience, and the sacred object: employing color, repetition, myth and symbol to evoke meaning. Artists include Buhm Hong, Carole Kunstadt, Cicely Cottingham, Michael Ensminger, Pat Lay, Paula Overbay, Robyn Ellenbogen and Jill Scipione in two gallery rooms showing paintings from her Psalms and Prophets series; these works are included in her new book of the same title, a VICTORY HALL PRESS publication, which will first be available at the Artist Reception.
Since the beginning of time, art has been made for sacred and devotional purposes by all cultures. The Divine, one’s belief in a God, has been expressed in Native American and African tribal art; in the East, with works from the Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Islamic traditions, and in the West, in medieval Christian art through the Renaissance and into current times. Biblical Art, visual art derived from stories in the Old or New Testaments, is a significant part of the early history of art in the West.
An interest in spirituality emerged as a major concept in Modernist art at the start of the 20th century. The early abstract painter, Wassily Kandinsky wrote a 1912 treatise called "Concerning the Spiritual in Art"; and his conviction that art should be an expression of the spiritual in mankind was shared by many of his contemporaries including Mondrian, Arp, Duchamp and Malevich. For Newman, Pollock, Rothko and other American abstract expressionists of the mid-nineteen hundreds, art was primarily about spirituality. Some pursued their own spiritual quest in which many of their works were inspired by Eastern sources. Or, like Kandinsky, they saw the artist as a kind of prophet or leader of humankind's spiritual development.
In 1775, writer Edmund Burke defined the Sublime in descriptive terms of darkness, obscurity, privation, vastness, magnificence, loudness and suddenness. The Sublime, in reference to the awesomeness of nature, or of God-in-nature, was a significant conviction of artists in the Romantic period of the 18th and 19th centuries. In England, William Turner’s atmospheric, turbulent sea paintings exemplified these concepts, as did the vast, majestic landscapes of early American painters such as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, and in a quieter way, the German painter, Caspar David Friedrich, whose work concerned the contemplation of nature, and sought to convey the spiritual experiences of life. The Divine and Sublime presents artists dealing with these spiritual issues in contemporary times.
Memories and perception are the themes of Korean-born artist, Buhm Hong’s installation and video. In his installation titled, Unseen, Buhm says “I wanted to present the layers of memories concerning different spaces, and the space-images in my perception. By using sheets of glass to create pure reflection, shadows and overlapping effects, I focused on how the space is split into dozens of parts, divided and amplified
three-dimensionally.” His piece ‘5 Rooms’, is “a multi-screen video work focusing on the spaces existing within memory, the ‘places’ that are recalled or come into mind whenever I encounter a space.” Jill Scipione presents dynamic, large-scale paintings inspired by passages from the Biblical Psalms and books of the Old Testament Prophets. These paintings are about light traced into dark; her drawing line becoming a painted trail of movement, creating and diffusing figures, forms and atmospheres. Her themes of Tent, Snare, Scaffolding, Messenger and Survival Suit, speak of threat and protection, fear and safety, destruction and deliverance. Pat Lay presents a room of darkly mysterious masks and transcendent “Altar Heads”. Inspired by the spiritual beauty of the sculptures of Buddha and the Hindu deities she saw on a trip to China, Bangkok, Thailand and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, these fired clay masks and welded steel "Altar Heads" refer to the idealized portrait and altar heads of the Ife and Benin Kingdoms in Nigeria, Buddha and the Hindu deities. Cicely Cottingham made her Everything is Sky Drawings after coming to the conclusion that she could never do justice in paint to the beauty of the skies in her northern New Jersey neighborhood, but she could "pay homage to the sky with these modest watercolors". The title of the series came to mind while she read "Where the Heart Beats", a biography of John Cage by Kay Larson. How Cage's experience of Zen Buddhism influenced his art gave her much to consider in her approach to painting. For Michael Ensminger, Zen gardens, scholars’ rocks, tantric drawings and Frederic Church’s theories on The Sublime conjure points of reference and inspiration. “The act of making the paintings is reflective, immersive, and transformative; one continues the process of reflection upon completion. The work, like the experience, is unbound: it offers no beginning and no end. My inspiration is evident in my use of found materials and simple, meditative abstractions, utilizing found paper that has been tattered, stained, and/or thrown away.“ Robyn Ellenbogen’s Lotus Sutra drawings are inspired by the sacred Buddhist texts of that name, recorded about 2,000 years ago, considered to contain the ultimate and complete teaching of the Buddha. Drawn in metal-point with tangles of silvery, wandering, smoke-like lines over a deep black background, the images evoke time and memory, and sensations of light and darkness. Paula Overbay’s gallery room becomes a cosmos of tiny dots, white and yellow on black paper. They surge and flow into organic forms and “are a metaphor for the growth and energy in each of us and in everything alive as they divide, expand, and connect.” Paula draws upon her experiences of nature for her works, especially her time living in Oregon; “The end of a shower meant the landscape would be washed clean with the air shimmering and surfaces drenched with color from sunlight." Carole Kunstadt exhibits about 30 works from her Sacred Poem Series, which takes physical, material, and intellectual inspiration from the Parish Psalmody, A Collection of Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship, published in 1844 and 1849. The complete body of work from this series spans eight years and includes more than ninety works. Carole manipulates and recombines these pages of psalms, resulting in a presentation that evokes an ecumenical offering: poems of praise and gratitude. The entire body of work is suggestive of the passage of time through the repetition of a task or ritual, and of the possibility to transcend the mundane.
The public is invited to the free Artist Reception on Sunday, 10/25/15, 3-6pm and to the free Artist Talks on Saturday, November 14, 2015 and Sunday, 11/15/15, 2:30-5:30pm, where they can meet the artists in a small-group setting to learn about their work.
Victory Hall DRAWING ROOMS is a contemporary arts center for drawing, painting, 3-dimensional works and print by emerging and mid-career artists in a former convent building in Downtown Jersey City. With 10 rooms for individual artist or group exhibitions and the TENTH ROOM GALLERY SHOP, we are dedicated to providing a space where the arts communities and the public can gather, interact and enjoy new artistic experiences. Our innovative and exciting exhibitions, public programs and publications enrich the lives of our community through an appreciation of and involvement with contemporary art.
DRAWING ROOMS is operated by Victory Hall Inc. a 501c3 non-profit organization producing exhibitions, programs and public art projects in the NJ/NY area since 2001. Other projects include RAINBOW THURSDAYS* art classes for developmentally disabled adults, THIRD FLOOR ARTIST WORK SPACES, VICTORY HALL PRESS, and exhibition development for SHUSTER'S ART PROJECT* at Art House, The Oakman, Hamilton House and Gallery at 109 Columbus.
James Pustorino, Director
Anne Trauben, Curator / Exhibitions Director