Scenes From The Newark Art Scene

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.”

We walked down to the next block to the big opening at 85.

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.

There were more traditional media as well. We liked Grace Graupe Pilard’s false-color landscapes:

Kati Vilim’s fluorescent tube installation (this is a small piece of it):

Stefanie Nagorka constructed a hanging American flag out of pillows, shaped and laminated hard with layers of paint.

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.

Most startling of all was what was on the roof.

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.

A jet engine? Yeah, I didn’t believe it either. But a victim volunteer showed up. They strapped him in, hooked up the big butane tank, and lit a blowtorch.

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.

Tom McGee has been building web sites since 1995, and blogging here since 2006. Currently a senior developer at Seton Hall University, he's also a freelance web programmer and musician. Contact him if you have the need for a blog, web site, redesign or custom programming!

3 thoughts on “Scenes From The Newark Art Scene”

  1. I’ve always been a huge fan of very detailed, large photographs. I would give my left nut to be able to go back in time to take such photos of certain moments in my life.
    Always thought it would be cool to offer big, super detailed photo print to newlyweds as part of a wedding-photo package.
    That Regurgitator just made my head melt. Wow.
    I would have preferred the video with ambient sound however to get a better depiction of the machine. Crappy taste in music almost makes me not see engineering brilliance.

  2. The ambient noise was close to terrifying. It had that really low-frequency thing going that made your chest wall vibrate. And once every revolution it was, of course, pointing RIGHT at you!

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