Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Road Trip: New Jersey and New York, Sept 12-14, 2014

P A R T  O N E: Hunterdon Art Museum and American Folk Art Museum

Ostensibly, the purpose of this trip was to pick up work from the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey. The Hunterdon exhibition ran from May 18th until September 7th and was a beautiful second incarnation of the original Swept Away: Translucence, Transparence, Transcendence in Contemporary Encaustic. The exhibition was originally curated by Michael Giaquinto of the Cape Cod Museum of Art and it was exhibited there from May 18th until June 23rd, 2013. Very big thanks go to both museums for their  thoughtful installations and gracious hosting of our work!

Catalog cover for the Hunterdon's exhibition - Cover image is a detail of an encaustic painting by Lynda Ray

Driving, Always Driving
My good friend Binnie Birstein chauffered me all over Connecticut, New Jersey and New York this weekend, and I owe her a big debt of gratitude for her fortitude and excellent driving skills. It's true that we had a great time chatting away by the hour, eating some great food, and doing lots of arting wherever we went. I don't know how many miles we put on Binnie's car, but there were a lot.

First Stop: American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square, Columbus Ave. at 66th St., NYC
Willem van Genk "Mind Traffic" and Ralph Fasanella "Lest We Forget"
When I read Roberta Smith's review of this show in the Times, I knew it was going to the top of the Must See list. This is the first time I have been to this museum since they have revamped themselves in reduced circumstances. (If you recall, this is the museum that sold their unique building to MoMA who plans to tear it down.) The location across from Lincoln Center is great and it's right next to the Mormon Temple in case you want to pop in.

These shows were beautifully installed and I was happy to learn a few things from the installation. We visited on Friday night and unfortunately (for us) the museum was having a musical performance right in the middle of Fasanella's work, so we didn't get to see all his paintings.

And, by the way, they did not allow photography of the work so I have had to resort to the internet, thus being unable to provide titles, sizes, etc. for the most part. Those caveats aside, I loved these shows in a big way!

Ralph Fasanella, "American Tragedy," size and year unknown (to me)

Ralph Fasanella (1914 - 1997) was a self-taught painter from working-class New York with a strong social conscience. He depicted scenes (imagined and actual) of importance in American history, especially to the American worker. His works are usually large and highly detailed. The ones most interesting to me had emblems or signs at the top, usually in dark red, that hovered above the scene below. The American Folk Art Museum has a large collection of Fasanella's work and an archive of related materials.

Willem van Genk (1927 - 2005) was a Dutch painter, also self taught, but more of the visionary and outsider ilk than Fasanella. Van Genk suffered from mental problems but was able to live on his own and create a large body of unique visionary work in paintings and sculpture.

Van Genk's works are covered with obsessive marks and writing, many containing buildings, cars, airplanes and machines composed of intricately cross-hatched lines. He often uses collage of both paper and thin wooden pieces and many works have circles or hexagonal areas like large thought balloons added to scenes that contain other information.

Willem van Genk, Untitled (World Airport), 1965, 44 3/4" x 46 3/4"

Although Van Genk worked from books, magazines, travel brochures and maps, he also traveled later in life, so some of his scenes come from direct observation.

Van Genk liked to build trolleys and machinery from cardboard with pieces of plastic, screening and advertising glued on. The museum has a large collection of these displayed together although they can't be viewed in the round. Due to discoloration of the glue over time, these works have an antique, weathered look that adds to their character and interest.

Additional info and more photos: Roberta Smith's rave review, Wall Street International review

Coming up in Part Two - lots more from the road.


  1. Nancy, Good post and looks like a good excursion!!

    1. Thank you, Jane! I really enjoyed it and I'm glad you liked the post.