“I think good art happens on that edge between comfortable and in a lot of pain, you know what I mean?” ~ Liz Phair
“The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.” ~ Diane Arbus
“I think the rock’n’roll myth of living on the edge is a pile of crap.” ~ Robert Smith
Artists and musicians may openly agree or disagree about the meaning of “the edge” but tonight in Hoboken, New Jersey, it’s the evening’s focus. So welcome to the Edge – or more precisely “the Edge of Un-Pretty”. Here at Maxwell’s, a venue that blends art and music “uptown” on Washington Street in the Mile Square town, the edge is exactly what guest curator Oscar Laluyan and eight artists from NJ/NYC (myself included) explore in the current show. The mix of art hanging on the brick walls highlights eye-catching, interesting, disturbing and captivating – with juxtaposing abstracts and figures, and media ranging from collage to pen drawing.
Tonight the artists are starting to arrive one by one for the evening opening reception and I’m at the bar sitting by Oscar Laluyan who was invited to organize and curate. Living a few doors away and joking that Maxwell’s is sometimes an extension of my living room, I showed up early anxious to check out all of the artwork before the reception got underway. This venue is known for highlighting local and independent music, and bands like Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers played here in their early days (Wikipedia has a comprehensive list). The art scene has also gotten attention here through monthly shows from local artists and organizations. Hoboken itself actually has connections to American art pioneers Alexander Calder, William de Kooning and Alfred Stieglitz, and as the art scene grows in Hudson County, this town is challenged to step up and showcase more artistic diversity.
Oscar Laluyan, free-lance writer covering the NY art scene and independent curator, spent the past weeks organizing this visually captivating show of complementing and contrasting styles. The postcard announcements stacked on the reception table show a bold-colored photo detail of “Mattress Factory” by NY photographer Max Noy and the title “The Edge of Un-Pretty”, Laluyan explains to guests, relates to the French term “une-joile-laide” or roughly translated as “ugly-beautiful”. It’s all about finding unconventional beauty in unexpected ways. As an artist in a group show it’s also interesting to see how your work can take on a different perspective depending on how it’s presented. I’m excited to see my two acrylic/spray-paint self-portraits convey more of a street art feel alongside the intense red and black organic “Rorschach” silk paintings from Hoboken artist Nena Tahil.
Throughout the dining area, by the jukebox, over the bar area, this diverse selection of artwork is testament to each artist’s unique voice and Laluyan’s eclectic eye for art and insight in presenting the goal of “nothing too pretty”. The crowd grows and I talk with several people lured from Manhattan to visit Hoboken for the first time specifically for this event. Friends, families and guests come and go, cameras flash, and conversations jump from upcoming art projects and drink specials, and, as the lights dim, to bus schedules and the evening’s band line-up.
So what’s it like “on the edge”? Come over to Washington Street where a gas masked figure, a distorted Justin Bieber, surreal cityscapes, and the Hudson River bathed in black await, for a trip worth taking!
Artists included in the show:
Luis Alves, Colleen Blackard, Nikki Helvey, Andrea Kroenig, Andrea McKenna, Max Noy, Nena Tahil, Hans Wolf.
“The Edge of Un-Pretty” Show viewing dates: September 24 – October 19, 2012.
Closing date: October 19, 2012.
Maxwell’s is located at 1039 Washington Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030
(SE corner of Washington and 11th Streets)
Article by Andrea Kroenig
Photos by Esther Laluyan