Drawing Rooms’ final show at their Grand St. location, entitled Somewhere Over the Interconnected Rainbow & Prospero’s Grand St Masque, 6/8/18 - 6/10/18, is taken from diametrically opposed literary sources, Edgar Allen Poe and Frank Baum. The theme of this show was born of a brainstorming session between Exhibitions Director & Curator Anne Trauben and Executive Director James Pustorino. While the ending of Poe’s "The Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy", of 1842, occupies the realm of the catastrophic, quite the opposite results when the story’s title is appropriated for thematic purposes. Anne became the Curator in 2014, and as with every show at Drawing Rooms, she has found a way to unify differences intelligently, often making more than a sum of the parts/art they display.
Again and again, as all who have shown and/or visited this gallery over its five highly transformative years know, the impossible gets pulled off with panache. The core of the challenge of this space, to make big ideas work in little rooms that function individually and as a whole, is parallel to the definition of community. And that is exactly what the final show in this particular venue presents: a skilled and diverse group of people that share the belief that art not only can build community, but is essential to the health and growth of communities.
Part of the pleasure of group shows is finding unexpected connections, and this show provides that in spades. While color acts as the overarching organizational concept, themes such as found abstraction, examination of natural phenomena, tension between 2 and 3 dimensional surfaces, visceral use of materials, intention and accident are just a few of the relationships that become apparent by traveling from room to room.
Highlights include the obsessive mark making of Harriet Finck, James Pustorino, Injoo Whang, Ellie Murphy and Elizabeth Onorato. Megan Klim, Maggie Ens, Jaynie Crimmins, and Gianluca Bianchino take that impulse into the third dimension. The serial aesthetic in these works contrasts dramatically with the allegiance to gesture in the works of Robin Feld, Stephanie DeManuelle, Rich White, and Jaz Graf. Surreal scenes employ humor in the works of Cheryl Gross, Bill Rybak, Raisa Nosova, Carol Radsprecher, and Jodie Fink. Intimate observations of nature range from Ed Fausty’s rock portraits to Nan Ring’s pinecone print to Sharon Sinton’s penguin studies and Jade Lowder’s graphite leaves. And of course, the human figure sneaks into each room in works by Winifred McNeil, Mauro Altamura, Gilbert Giles, and Samm Cohen. These are but a few of the discoveries offered among over 300 artworks.
Should you decide to browse the archives on the gallery website, the inventive titles of past exhibits, not to mention the range of high quality art from past shows, will affirm the rich legacy of art that has graced 180 Grand St. since 2012. Drawing Rooms has hit the sweet spot during its time here: the gallery has provided the satisfying experience of looking at a single artist’s output while simultaneously contemplating thematic overlaps between artists, something solo shows can’t do and group shows rarely achieve. While this feat seems aligned with the physical parameters implicit in the Jersey City convent site, I suspect that the real genius lies in the more than capable hands of Anne, which means we have a tremendous amount to look forward to as Drawing Rooms begins its reincarnation in their new space.