Saturday night a couple of usually deserted blocks on Market Street in Newark were buzzing with two gallery openings. Greg Leshe had invited LF and myself down to see “Ground-over-Skies,” a set of his work that combines photography, video, performance and installations, at Gallery Aferro.
We were impressed. Greg’s a pretty laid-back guy in person, and his work counters that with an edgy visual wit. As he explains in the program notes:
“My work is autobiographical and explores the intricate links between memory, the body, and self-performance. My videos, sculptures, photographs and recent drawings are from a series recalling specific, core impressions from my actual past. The memories I am attracted to and invariably address are of formative experiences with family, aviation, manual labor, masculinity, alcoholism, violence and obsession. In these works I attempt to revisit and occupy my subjective past through a process of assigning myself nostalgic, symbolically connected tasks to laboriously perform and record.
Finally, my work is about flying and rotating, and crashing, and raging, and fighting, and loosing and loss. It is about showing up, and building, and constructing, and hoping, and lighting up, and fearing burning up, and burning up, and being killed, and recovering from being killed, and recovering, my memory, my self.”
Rupert Raven’s outpost fills four full floors, plus the roof, of a former furniture store. The 30,000 square feet of space allowed for several big installation pieces, as well as performance pieces. There was a performance garage sale, to be broadcast live; a sort-of shrine by Rich Wislocky of mirrored rooms full of images of Ghandi, candles, and random paraphernalia.
And especially Han Zeng’s fabulously detailed large photo prints. This image doesn’t do it any justice at all, by the way. The original is about 4 feet square with unbeliebable detail and resolution. The groupings (each photo is in a different location, with a differently themed cast of characters) stand out.
Several people along the way urged us to go up there. When asked what it was, the answer was another question: Want to ride it?
Sorry, I can’t do spinning rides. Roller coasters, I’m totally down with. But this, especially since it’s named the “Regurgitator,” seemed at first glance sure to put me out-of-commission with inner-ear induced nausea for the duration. Then when he explained that you sit on one end and they set off a jet engine on the other, well I was pretty sure I made the right choice.
The thing started spinning wildly, several full rotations a second. The engine was glowing a bright cherry red, and the roar of the engine punched us back with every turn. I found myself wondering, “is the fire department OK with this?” LF and I got up and stepped back a little. Actually, we hid. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have a permit for this kind of thing.
I’ve got to say, there’s crazier and more dangerous art out there, but I haven’t seen it personally. We left full of warm feelings: we’d seen the future of Newark, and we didn’t get third-degree burns.