Raul Villarreal's La crisis de la abundancia (The Crisis of Abundance) addresses issues of abundance and hunger
Through May 4th, the Therese A. Maloney Gallery at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown will be presenting "A Moveable Feast: Art, Food and Migration."
This colorful, varied, and thought-provoking exhibition presents images of food across diverse cultures. It is curated by Raúl Villarreal, Assistant Professor of Art, and Dr. Virginia Fabbri Butera, Professor of Art History and Director of the Maloney Art Gallery, and ties in with themes and ideas being presented to students in their classes. Dr. Butera has developed a course entitled "The Art of Salsa Making: A History of Hispanic Heritage in the Americas" which examines food, music, dance, art, history and their expressions and impacts across cultures, immigrants' experience of ethnicity, and the absorption or lack thereof for people who have moved into new societies.
By bringing notable contemporary artists to the gallery, Dr. Butera and Mr. Villarreal are offering a tremendous opportunity to both students and faculty at the college and to the neighboring area. "It would have been better for my career," Dr. Butera stated, "to show big name artists." But this type of thematic show, she said, is better for the college and her students. Morristown has become a hub for the arts in New Jersey, largely due to efforts of those like Dr. Butera, and organizations like Morris Arts and the Morris Museum.
Dr. Virginia Fabbri Butera presents cutting-edge contemporary art at the Therese A. Maloney Gallery at the College of St. Elizabeth
Dr. Butera's exhibitions, over the years, have found recognition from the New York Times and support from the National Endowment for the Arts. She has brought dozens artists whose work is normally seen in important galleries in Manhattan to the community. (From the current exhibition, Adel Gorgy is represented by Able Fine Art NY; Bette Blank by Adam Baumgold; and Tracy Miller by Feature, Inc.) “A Moveable Feast” is the 25th exhibition she's curated in the seven year history of the Maloney Art Gallery and is the first for Mr. Villarreal at this space. Each exhibition is augmented by panel discussions allowing visitors to hear from the artists themselves about the work they are presenting. Special performances of music, dance, or film are also often scheduled. These inclusive and carefully orchestrated presentations draw large numbers of attendees and allow both students and visitors to experience, in a very immediate way, how art, ideas and our society interact and inform each other.
Food is a sumptuous subject matter, but a politicized one as well, and the selected works in “A Moveable Feast,” make strong reference to that.
Raúl Villarreal's “La Crisis de la abundancia (The Crisis of Abundance),” a large oil on linen painting, addresses the issue of having enough, but not having it where it is needed. In this thoughtful composition, two men carry one catch of fish, but they pull in opposite directions. The dichotomy is heighted when one sees one of the men is old, the other, young. Developed versus developing societies both pull on the same limited resources, Villarreal points out. What he doesn't reveal is who will win this tug of war. As many artists do, he poses the question and leaves it for the viewer to ponder.
Jose Rodiero's Tapas depicts dinosaurs, celebrities and the complex history of the art of cuisine
In José Rodeiro's “Tapas,” one encounters the unlikely combination of images of Lady Diana, triceratops, pterodactyls, brontosauruses, conquistadors, celebrities and glitterati, waiters, alligators, and traditional still life objects like lemons, eggs, fish and wine, with rainbow bars shot through indicating a collapse of the space/time continuum. It's a dizzying, dazzling presentation of a conception of a whole world of eating, but as its title reminds us, as tidbits or bites. Just a flavor, since the whole meal is far beyond the scope of simple mortals.
Adel Gorgy's large format photography is deeply conceptual at its core, and compellingly visual in its expression. Gorgy's vision is largely focused on art, itself. His responses to artists from Pollock to Rembrandt have been the basis of his recent work. “My Meeting with Warhol” repudiates the flatness of Warhol's imagery, which, in itself, is a comment on the lack of dimension in the icons surrounding us. Instead, Gorgy asserts that nothing is ordinary. By introducing a classical vanishing point in his abstraction of Warhol's soup cans, and then filling the new space with layers upon layers of lines, colors and shapes referencing Warhol's original, the artist presents a surprising complexity inherent in everyday objects. The resulting imagery draws the viewer in from across the room.
Adel Gorgy gives the iconic soup cans added layers of depth and meaning in My Meeting with Warhol
Lighter looks at food can be found in Bette Blank's paintings “Sushi Palace” and “Salami Sandwich.” Blank's use of text, her bold colorful figures, reminiscent of a quieter, gentler, Red Grooms, and her dead-on deadpan humor bring a marvelous sense of the joys of food.
Tracy Miller's complex and lyrical painting, “Undone,” recalls the hazy color and abstracted vision of memories of past celebrations, and Dave Luciano's photograph “Tossed,” captures some of the chaos and waste of a society used to abundance, it but does so with visual elegance.
Maria Lupo's “Migration (Porca)” and “El Mapa de México” by Roberto Marquez both incorporate maps into their works, bringing an immediate sense of migration and location to the subject. Lupo adds a bit of wit by placing ceramic pigs (with sneakers) onto her canvas, and Marquez captures a sweet sense of nostalgia for places left behind.
As expected, there are traditional takes on the still life, but also surprising ones, like Larry Ross' “Automated Still Life.” Sue Zwick's richly colored and carefully observed photographs imbue simple family meals or street scenes with both the intimacy and the monumentality universal rites deserve.
As in the past, Dr. Butera brings a broad vision to the exhibition by presenting a wide range of media, including Marilyn Walters' fascinating Plexiglas and mixed media piece, “Lost In Translation,” and Bob Richardson's thought-provoking sculpture, “Formula.” A site-specific installation is present in “Jitters,” Linda Stillman's work comprised of coffee filters and orange juice caps. In her deft hands, they climb the wall in a composition that transcends the simplicity of the materials.
The College of Saint Elizabeth exerts a powerful influence on the regional art scene through presentations at its state-of-the-art Dolan Performance Hall and important exhibitions at the Therese A. Maloney Gallery, both of which are located in Annunciation Center. “A Moveable Feast” runs through May 4th and will reward visitors who make the trek to the campus with the kind and quality of exhibition usually seen at much larger museums.
The gallery is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 2 – 6 pm and by appointment. The gallery can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone at 973-290-4314 or on the web at www.maloneyartgallery.org.
Mary Gregory is an arts journalist and writer who lives in New York. Her reviews have appeared in several publications, her critical essays have been published in exhibition catalogues, and her fiction about art has been published by the Georgia Museum of Art.
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