ART GALLERIES AT HOME Like many of the galleries in Jersey City, Curious Matter is a do-it-yourself affair. But what separates Curious Matter from other exhibition venues in town is its parlor location. “Our approach parallels attitudes held by Alfred Stieglitz in relation to his Gallery 291,” says Mingst. “We’re an exhibition space, but also a place of inquiry and ideas.” Gallery 291 was located on 291 Fifth Avenue, near Herald Square in New York City. It opened in 1905. Stieglitz rented a studio apartment to show photography, which was an unrecognized art form at the time. From this small residential studio, he would exhibit the avant garde work of Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse. This living space helped introduce modern art to American audiences. Over the years, Jersey City has had a string of in-home exhibition venues. Elen Sviland operated 919 Gallery from her spacious industrial loft at 150 Bay Street and during the gallery’s tenure hosted acclaimed artist Miru Kim. Farah Nuradeen used to manage an informal art gallery from her Downtown garden apartment on Jersey Avenue. Curious Matter is not the first exhibition venue Mingst has run from a private residence. Cabinet Gallery, an earlier incarnation of Curious Matter, was housed in an SRO (single room occupancy) on East 9th Street in Manhattan’s East Village. Mingst, at the time, had been creating temporary art in remote locations in Far Rockaway, Fire Island, and Pennsylvania. His materials were sand, snow, dirt and sticks. A shovel was his primary tool. Due to the transient nature of the work, he began to consider documenting his projects. This shift led him to consider the collection, presentation, and stewardship of objects as well as to reflect on ideas about preservation and adoration. The Cabinet Gallery was the articulation of those interests. Earlier in his career as an artist, Mingst realized the potential of domestic living quarters to operate as exhibition venues. “The very first shows I put together were renegade presentations in art school,” he says. 24
“I would simply commandeer rooms and hallways and install work, then create flyers and put them up around campus," he adds. "Creating art and exhibiting have always been linked for me.” The Cabinet Gallery, in addition to being a home and exhibition venue, was where Mingst met Bruso. Bruso, at the time, was organizing shows at La Mamma La Galleria, an exhibition venue near the Bowery. Both artists were exploring new directions in their practice; they identified similar intent and began to collaborate on projects. Museology, cabinets of curiosities and religious iconography were among their intersecting interests.
THE JERSEY CITY SCENE
Jersey City is a source of bewilderment for many New Yorkers, especially its artist types. New York has the infrastructure to support, nurture and sustain the arts. Jersey City simply does not. Mention Jersey City to a curator based in New York, and his or her eyes glaze over. Despite their longtime status as New Yorkers, Mingst and Bruso do not suffer anti-Jersey bias. They love Jersey City, and its hidden treasures. New Yorkers cannot claim these treasures, no matter how hard they try. “Folks get baffled too easily sometimes,” says Mingst. “The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre with its Wonder Morton Organ is located in Jersey City.” He notes another icon that Jersey City has that New York does not: “Proximity to the Pulaski Skyway, not to drive, just to look at.” “Then there’s that maple syrup smell that wafts through some mornings, and too, there’s seeing the sunset from the ShopRite parking lot on Marin Boulevard,” he adds. Bruso’s appreciation of Jersey City, on the other hand, is more pragmatic. “In New York, my studio was the surface of my bed. And Jersey City has a quicker ride to Manhattan than Brooklyn does.” He adds another pro: “the ability to keep chickens.” But Jersey City is not the easiest place to run an art gallery or institution. Ask the former employees from the Jersey City Museum or Cooke Contemporary – they can tell you. Money is always an issue. Making ends meet is a
Published on Dec 3, 2011
Published on Dec 3, 2011
The Winter 2011 issue of NEW, Jersey City's magazine of arts, culture and lifestyle. Featuring stories on Filipino food & culture in Jersey...