Visual Arts Center of New Jersey Reopens

Visual Arts Center of New Jersey
The "Big Bang Votive" exhibit at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey

On Saturday, October 3, the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey will reopen its spring exhibitions that were closed this past March due to Covid-19. To provide the safest viewing experience possible, visitors must make reservations through artcenternj.org for limited, one-hour time slots. All four exhibitions—Hillerbrand + Magsamen: The Devices Project; Yvette Molina: Big Bang Votive; Elisabeth Smolarz: The Encyclopedia of Things; and Adrienne Wheeler: White Dress Narratives—will be on view through January 18, 2021.

“We are so happy to welcome visitors back to our galleries, where they can have a safe and meaningful interaction with art,” said Art Center Curator, Mary Birmingham. “These exhibitions—on view briefly before they were interrupted by the global pandemic—seem even more relevant today, with their focus on the power and comfort of everyday objects.”

Hillerbrand + Magsamen: The Devices Project is a multi-media installation in the Art Center’s Main Gallery. The Houston-based artistic team of Hillerbrand+Magsamen is the collaboration of Stephan Hillerbrand and Mary Magsamen, and their children Maddie and Emmett. Together they create sculpture, installation, performance, video, and photographic works that explore our relationship to everyday objects, and how we use them to playfully survive and cope in a world of personal and political turmoil. According to the artists, The Devices Project is “rooted in our society’s ever-growing desire to exercise control over our lives through various devices. Should we constantly look to new technology to fix our problems? Or are there alternatives?”

Big Bang Votive, on display in the Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg Gallery, is a communal storytelling project by Yvette Molina that evolves over the course of the exhibition. Molina will be physically back in residence in the gallery every other Wednesday throughout the run of the show to engage with visitors and create paintings that respond to their personal stories. (Please contact Exhibitions Manager Kimberly Fisher at [email protected] for more information on the artist’s schedule.) Starting with approximately 300 panels prepared only with imagery of starry skies, Molina renders images from visitors’ stories as “votives” on the panels. The exhibition also incorporates an audioscape—a surround-sound composition, in collaboration with Joshua-Michéle Ross, played on a continuous loop. Five channels of audio placed throughout the gallery allow the sound to move through the room like a vast cosmos rotating overhead.

Elisabeth Smolarz: The Encyclopedia of Things is on view in the Marité and Joe Robinson Strolling Gallery I. This exhibition, organized in partnership with Guttenberg Arts, is an ongoing project that spotlights Smolarz’s community-based photographic project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. This version, begun in 2017, offers an intimate look at the diverse and populous community of Guttenberg, NJ. Utilizing objects as portals to memories, Elisabeth Smolarz collaborated with individuals in Guttenberg to create shrine-like installations of their own precious objects to tell the story of each individual.

Adrienne Wheeler’s White Dress Narratives is on display in the museum’s Stair-gazing space. Wheeler is a multi-media artist, independent curator, arts educator, and advocate for social justice who lives and works in Newark. Through her practice, she addresses societal injustices, particularly those affecting the lives of women and children. Guest curated by Noelle Park, White Dress Narrativesconsists of nine cut-canvas dress silhouettes, each replicating Wheeler’s mother’s hand-sewn grade-school graduation dress. Representing nine generations of maternal lineage from her great-great grandmother to her daughter and nieces, the dresses are embellished with machine stitching and hand-painted designs that reflect each woman’s story.

Visit artcenternj.org for more information on these exhibitions and to reserve a timeslot.

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