Art Review: Pat Lay at the Dvora Pop-up Gallery

If you’ve ever had a computer spill its guts to you, you know what a shattering experience it can be. The surfaces of video cards and chipboards are great riddles in titanium, wire, and plastic. Dots and twisting parallel lines, bright colors and silent black rectangles: It’s all in there, hidden behind the screen you may be looking at right now. Run electricity through it, and the magic begins. But unless you’re an engineer, there’s very little chance that you understand the meanings of the markings on the chips and drives. They’re as inscrutable — and as beautiful — as hieroglyphics or cuneiform characters carved into rocks.

Many visual artists have been struck by the accidental aesthetic of electronic components. Few, however, have taken that interest quite as far as Pat Lay. Visiting “Exquisite Logic,” her show at the Dvora Pop-up Gallery in the Powerhouse Arts District, is a bit like stepping into a mainframe. Lay takes byzantine images of circuit boards, manipulates and enhances them, and goes large with them — sometimes as large as a tapestry or a Persian rug. Even the materials she uses to make her prints and collages have technical-sounding names: MDF cradled paper, Tyvek backing, metallic ink. Instead of handles, she’s assigned serial-codes to them: “B53K477-1,” “B54AAA0468B,” etc. To a non-artist, it’s all as arcane as a liturgy in Latin.

“DM422161212” by Pat Lay

From these elements, Lay has conjured something subtly familiar and maybe even deeply human. Lay calls many of these images “digital mandalas,” and many of them do display the symmetry and the near-tessellated quality associated with traditional Indian art. Modern mandalas are often used as relaxation tools, but for centuries they were associated with devotional practice. Here, the Buddha is gone missing, replaced by a microchip.

“Exquisite Logic” is not a simple statement about the loss of spiritual intensity amidst the rise of the machines. Pat Lay has far too much respect for computers for anything as vulgar as that. Rather, her work whispers about the way in which Techne always seems to draw on the symbolic language of religion. By tracing connections between motherboards and sacred painting, Silicon Valley and sadhana, Lay’s art brings the computer and the temple into alignment. Both are sites of magic and wonder. Both are favored by visionaries, enlightenment-seekers, and thrill-riders.

In order to achieve this effect, Lay goes heavy on eye-popping techniques: bright color on dark backgrounds, gradients, parallel lines and sharp geometric figures sheer scale. The opening images in “Exquisite Logic” are nearly eight feet tall, and they’ve been hung high on the wall; unframed, they curl a little at the sides as they scroll toward the gallery floor. The bigger images are rendered on Japanese kōzo paper, which imparts some of the airiness associated with Asian landscape art.

Some of these resemble obsessively decorated doors. Others are distinguished by a spine, running from the top to the bottom of the images. The verticality of these pieces suggests ascension; their texture and design keep them earthbound, tethered to artistic traditions. The pattern on “KB095-2” looks more than a little like those on a Navajo blanket. “CDS118 164020” sports stark turquoise fields reminiscent of batik. “B53K4771” comes on like the cover of a sci-fi paperback – something by Philip Dick, perhaps, about a portal into a digital world.

“DM624161212” by Pat Lay

The mandalas are smaller and quieter, but taken collectively, they’re no less immersive. These crisp, chilly squares feel like an encounter with an alien (perhaps artificial?) intelligence. It’s here where Pat Lay’s inspirations are clearest: The series of images called “Processor #1-6” are images taken straight from the bowels of a computer, balanced in the center of a grid and framed, a chessboard where Deep Blue always has home-field advantage. “DM610161212,” perhaps the most arresting of the mandalas, is a thick network of wires and chips straight from the circuit board. With the conduits in electric blue and the breakers in bright crimson, it could be a trippy still from a space opera: a view of a starship corridor seen through the infrared lenses of a Robocop.

Yet calling these images kaleidoscopic — evocative of sci-fi and the psychedelic symmetry of outer space flicks — doesn’t do them justice. The DMT daydreams of pieces like “DM423161212” are exciting, but they play a supplemental role; the callbacks to ancient Indian, Celtic, and Native American devotional art take the lead. It requires an artist of peculiar sensitivity to crack open a computer and find mandalas, crosses, and circles reminiscent of Himalayan sand paintings there. Lay may be on to something, even if it’s just our tendency to project our own technological aesthetic back on to artworks made by prior searchers for ultimate truth.

Although the tone is totally different, “Exquisite Logic” reminded me of the Zheng Guogu’s outstanding “Visionary Transformations” exhibition at MOMA PS1 last spring. Like Guogu, Lay is well aware of modern distortions that make apprehension of Buddhist art difficult. Like Guogo, she embraces those distortions and from them she spins some … well, we won’t say gold. Bitcoin would be more appropriate.

“Exquisite Logic” will be on view through March 12, and there’ll be a special event at the gallery for Jersey City Fridays. If you didn’t know that Dvora even existed, you’re not alone — until recently, I didn’t either. The space, which is raw but perfectly appropriate to an exhibition like this one, is right behind the big plate glass windows of an unused chamber on the first floor of the Oakman Condominium building (160 First St.). This is the premiere exhibition in the gallery, and it’s an impressive way to kick off. Presently, Dvora is programmed by the sharp-eyed people behind the Drawing Rooms gallery in the Marion neighborhood of Jersey City. When the Powerhouse Arts District was initially conceived, it was spaces like this one that arts advocates were imagining. We could use a few more like this one.

Pat Lay: Exquisite Logic
Dvora Gallery @the Oakman Condominiums
160 First Street
Showing until March 12
Special event for Jersey City Fridays
6-8 p.m., March 6

Header: “DM423161212” by Pat Lay

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Prime Gallery Mounts Exhibition Drawing Attention to Local Gun Violence

Photo by Jayne Freeman

Lest you think that the Jersey City art scene is lacking in homegrown gallerists, meet Maria Kosdan of Prime Gallery. Kosdan was born and bred in Jersey City — well, technically born in NYC but raised in Jersey City, where she attended both public and parochial school. By the time Kosdan was just 17 (in 2005), she had helped Jelynne Gardiniano Morse curate one of the first art shows at L.I.T.M., a former gallery and bar on Newark Avenue. Educated at Monmouth University and later at FIT, Kosdan excelled at curating and critiquing, so moving into the art world was a natural decision.

“I loved the idea of getting artists and buyers together, showing and selling. That was more interesting to me than anything else,” Kosdan said.

One of Kosdan’s first jobs after graduate school was at a gallery specializing in Russian art where she managed several projects and art fairs internationally. “I had amazing mentors, and I literally learned every facet of the business side of art from curating to dealing with sales,” she explained. “I was like a ‘Jackie of all trades,’ which included helping artists who weren’t familiar with managing and bringing them success.”

Later Kosdan would leave the art world for real estate only to return to her first calling through serendipity. “I started doing real estate staging and decided it would be more appealing for the buyer to have an opportunity to purchase the artwork shown on the walls of the sample home,” she recounted. Though this concept wasn’t new, Kosdan was the first to do it within the real estate circles she was traversing, and it perfectly paired two of her great loves. For help nurturing and implementing the concept, she credits her business partner, Jesse Halliburton, of PRIME Real Estate Group.

By Derek Tunia

This Friday Prime Gallery brings us “HANDS UP: A Campaign for Peace,” a group exhibition showcasing artists from North Jersey and honoring Jersey City’s residents directly affected by the Dec. 2019 shooting that took place at a Jersey City kosher market. One focus of the exhibit will be the work Jahahd Payne, himself a victim of gun violence (and a Jersey City resident). Some of the proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to two charities: Coalition for Peace Action and the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement.

Describing her passion for the exhibition, Kosdan said: “I felt it was important to highlight this tragic event and loss of lives. This is my home, and it really affected me. I have this space. Why not utilize it to make a statement, and let artists make a statement, too, by evoking peace and love.”

Curated by gallery director Maria Kosdan — and in collaboration with Chaz Howard — Hands UP: A Campaign for Peace will feature artwork by Maria de Los Angeles, Ryan Bonilla, The Real Love Child, Clarencerich, Leandro Comrie, 4sakn_CBS, D.Tunia, Distort, Jahahd Payne, Rebecca Johnson, Walter John Rodriguez, RU8ICON1 and TF Dutchman.

The opening reception will be on Friday February 28, from 6–9 p.m. The gallery is located at 351 Palisade Ave. in Jersey City.

Header: Prime Gallery’s Maria Kosdan, photo by Robert Ventura.

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Coles Street Park, Reservoir #3 and Foreclosure Counseling on Council Agenda

Spring-like breezes lofted through the open windows of the Efrain Rosario Memorial Caucus Room Monday night as Jersey City’s city council gathered for its Feb. 23 caucus meeting. The council discussed several ordinances pertaining to Jersey City’s parks and recreation including an ordinance to “vacate” 17th Street for the new Coles Street Park, a grant of $750,000 from the NJ Historic Trust, and details on a shared agreement with Hudson County and other municipalities to track housing foreclosures.

Coles Street Park, rendering by Urban Architecture LLC

First on the agenda, Ordinance 20-026 to “vacate certain portions of 17th Street” for the Jersey Avenue Redevelopment Plan’s Coles Street Park. Eliminating 17th Street will create a single lot to be transformed into a campus of mixed-use buildings with a pedestrian plaza and walkway.

Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano took issue with the ordinance, stating that Jersey City already has enough parks. Although Coles Street Park will be paid for by Hoboken Brownstone Company (the developer), it will need to be maintained by Jersey City.

“That’s a big park,” Councilman Boggiano said at the top of the meeting. “We just spent $40 million on Garfield Avenue. How much is this going to cost us? Look at Pershing Field and all the things that should be done with the existing parks. I can’t see building new parks until the city takes care of the parks we already have.”

In November, Mayor Steven Fulop broke ground for Coles Street Park between 16th and 17th Streets. Urban Architecture LLC of Jersey City designed the park to include two dog runs, a playground and a stage for live performances. The park is the first phase of the Emerson Lofts development, a mixed-use property that is part of the Jersey City Redevelopment Plan.

NJ Historic Trust Grant $750,000 for Reservoir No. 3

Business Administrator
Brian Platt and Chief Landscape Architect for Jersey City Brian Weller, photo by Sally Deering

The council discussed Resolution 20-173 authorizing the acceptance of a $750,000 grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust Fund for the restoration of Reservoir No. 3, a decommissioned reserve on Bergen Hill in the Heights. 

Built between 1871 and 1874, Reservoir No. 3 was part of the city’s waterworks system designed to provide potable water to Jersey City and Ellis Island. Since it was drained, an ecosystem has evolved in its place with trees, wildflowers, swans, great blue heron, peregrine falcons and a six-acre lake.

The NJ Historic Trust Fund granted Jersey City the money to restore Reservoir No. 3’s screen house. Once the council approves the award, the city will be expected to provide $750,000 in matching funds, and once restored the screen house will be an “educational and preserved historic resource” according to the state. 

“Give me the capital account balance, the spend down on capital accounts to date and what it was originally budgeted for when the council authorized it,” Councilman at Large Rolando R. Lavarro, Jr. said. “I want to make sure we spend what we budgeted for.”

“We want to make sure at the end of day what is spent and what’s left,” Councilman Yun added.

“This grant is very competitive,” Brian Weller, director of the Jersey City Division of Architecture said. “It’s a national historic site, a local historic site, so we are going to retain an historic preservationist. That’s part of getting this grant. We have since reviewed and selected the historic preservationist for this job, so we can hit the ground running.”

Once the project is completed, the state will have final approval of the renovation, Weller said.

Foreclosures Tracking and Counseling

Ordinance 20-028 to increase the fee for registration of foreclosure property and Resolution 20-182 authorizing a shared services agreement with Hudson County for Jersey City to participate in a county-wide registration program for foreclosed properties were brought to the council’s attention by Dinah Hendon, director of the Division of Housing Preservation.

Hendon’s office uses a foreclosed property registry, but it doesn’t seem to cast a wide-enough net. She supports the resolution to enter into an agreement with Community Champions Corporation (an organization that provides project management support for municipalities) because it will bring more foreclosure properties to the city’s attention. In doing so, tenants will have their rights addressed and homeowners can participate in needed housing counseling, she said.

“This company has the programs and access to the state court records, (and) it’s going to uncover many more foreclosures and contact those banks and handle the whole registration process that we are now trying to do in house,” Hendon said.

In 2019, Hendon’s office registered 544 foreclosed properties, she said. Champion reported to her that in their initial search there were 1,700 active foreclosures in Jersey City and another 900 for which the initial data is not clear. That’s somewhere between 1,700 and 2,800 active foreclosures, and the city registered only 544. Once the contract is signed, Hendon and her staff will focus on the most important aspect that the registration requirements were meant to address: the condition of the properties, the rights of the homeowners, and the rights of the tenants on the properties.

“Very often in foreclosures, banks don’t know New Jersey’s foreclosures laws and will say unknowingly to a homeowner to contact their tenants and tell them the bank has taken over the property or some equally troublesome notice a tenant may get, when in fact tenants’ rights in New Jersey are very well settled,” Hendon said. “If a building is in foreclosure, it doesn’t change their rights as a tenant. We want to be on top of that,” she continued.

Council members in attendance:  President Joyce E. Watterman, Councilman at Large Rolando R. Lavarro, Jr., Councilman at Large Daniel Rivera, Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley, Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey, Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano, and Ward D Councilman Michael Yun.

Next Caucus Meeting:  Monday, March 9, 4 p.m.
Jersey City City Hall
280 Grove St, Jersey City

Header:  Jersey City City Council’s Caucus Meeting in Session, Mon., Feb. 24, photo by Sally Deering

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Bodycam Tapes Show Bravery of Jersey City Cops, Fulop says

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said police bodycam footage from the scene of the horrific Dec. 10, 2019, shooting at the Jersey City Kosher Supermarket at 224 Martin Luther King Drive showed that his city’s cops went above and beyond in exposing themselves to possible harm.

At a brief press conference held Friday, Feb. 21, directly across the street from the still-shuttered shop, Fulop, accompanied by Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea, said the newly released tapes “only reinforce a lot of what we said in the days after the Dec. 10 incident … that we are exceptionally proud of how police officers ran toward danger and how they communicated with each other.”

The attack on the market by two radicalized anti-Semitic shooters identified as David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, ended with both assailants dead along with the shop’s co-owner, Mindy Ferencz, 33; an employee, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49; and a customer and rabbinical student Moshe Deutsch, 24. Police said Jersey City Det. Joseph Seals, 39, was shot dead by Anderson and Graham a short time earlier in Bayview Cemetery.

Two other Jersey City police officers – Ray Sanchez and Mariela Fernandez – were wounded during the multi-hour gun battle. Shea said on Friday that Sanchez had elected to delay surgery to repair his shoulder wound so he could attend Seals’ funeral. He has since had the procedure, Shea said. Fernandez suffered an injury to her right hand, according to Shea.

Fulop made his remarks to a phalanx of local and out-of-town news crews the morning after the state attorney general’s office released a total of seven videos (as reported by several TV news media outlets) taken from police bodycams at the shooting scene.

Asked by a reporter if the city felt “blindsided” by the attorney general’s decision to make the video available for public consumption, Fulop replied, “We were a little blindsided, I don’t want to mince words,” but added: “We do feel that’s their prerogative. It’s important to be transparent.”

The mayor said he received an email the night prior from the attorney general’s office advising the city about the tapes.  He also said the city learned that the victims’ families were notified prior to the tapes’ going out.

Elaborating, Shea said the city “confirmed (the families) were spoken to, and they were comfortable with the release.”

In any case, Fulop observed, “We couldn’t be more proud” of the way Jersey City police officers reacted to the threats to public safety.

In an interview with a TV newsman, Shea said an examination of the images captured by the bodycams made him feel “very confident that all of our officers acted heroically.” He said that as more information is released, the department would expect to learn more.

Meanwhile, the mayor said that to ensure the police continue to be in a state of readiness for any similar incidents in the future, the city would continue to invest in active shooter training, some of which will be carried out this year.

Excerpts from some of the footage broadcast recently by New York-based TV news stations show a man and woman emerging from a van parked along Martin Luther King Drive, carrying long guns aimed at the market and striding inside.

Other images depict a police officer ensconced inside an upper-floor classroom at Sacred Heart School, located across the street from the market, firing multiple rounds from a handgun aimed at the shop. The officer, speaking into a communication device, identifies his shots as friendly fire.

In an audio portion of one of the tapes, a police officer can be heard shouting in an apparent reference to one of the attackers: “I think he’s down. … No, he’s still moving. Behind the wood! Behind the wood!”

Various collections have been set up on behalf of the victims, and the City of Jersey City announced that it would help pay off the mortgage on the Seals family home in North Arlington.

Header:  Mayor Fulop and Public Safety Director Shea courtesy City of Jersey City video.

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JC School Board Holds Public Meeting on 2020-2021 Budget

Parents and Educators Implore the Board to Put Children First

Hillary Clinton wrote, “It Takes a Village” to raise a child. In the case of Jersey City’s public-school children, it takes a budget that will address their needs, from counseling to a decent breakfast.

A small yet impassioned group of parents and teachers spoke at the school board’s public meeting held at the Jersey City Board of Education’s (BOE) Claremont Avenue office Thursday night. They were there to give the nine-member board their input as it prepares the 2020-2021 school budget. The first draft goes to the county’s superintendent of schools on March 20, and the budget must be passed by May 14.

The Thursday night meeting in the Dr. Emery Konick, Jr. Conference Center took place two days after Mayor Seven Fulop and Ward D Councilman Michael Yun held a press conference outlining a $250 million school-funding plan to fill the BOEs $120 million budget gap. Fulop and Yun proposed a three-year commitment to transfer $40 million over from tax abatements to the BOE.  Their plan would also include spending cuts on firefighter and police recruitment, a pay freeze for select staff, limits on overtime pay and a school tax levy. School taxes are part of a homeowner’s property tax.

Board President Lorenzo Richardson spoke briefly about the mayor’s press conference, saying that he sent the mayor an email the morning of the press conference “providing directives as to what the needs of the schools are in terms of funding from the city.” In the email, President Richardson requested that the city fulfill its commitment to cover the state’s funding cut, which is projected to be $72 million (previously believed to be less than $55 million).

“At this time, we are dealing with funding issues related to state cuts,” President Lorenzo said at the start of the public forum.

Parent Nancy Pokler address the School Board.  Photo by Sally Deering

The board president then opened the public meeting to the small group of parents and educators who came to talk. Jersey City resident and P.S. 5 parent Nancy Pokler talked about the loss of 200 public school positions including 160 teachers, 25 assistants and aides, 20 janitorial, security and food service staff, and 15 administrator and supervisor positions. She spoke of the state’s SFRA (School Funding Reform Act) formula of 2008, used to determine how much each school district receives in funding.

“The SFRA shows that Jersey City can and should be funding its own schools,” Pokler said. “Jersey City has the largest tax base in the entire state and shockingly one of the lowest school tax rates, ranking 532 out of the 565 municipalities.”

Jyl Josephson, parent of a P.S. 26 fifth grader, said that she didn’t want to talk about the numbers. Instead she wanted to talk about Jersey City’s schoolchildren. Josephson told the board that in the past she attended many public-school board meetings where parents made demands about what they wanted without ever mentioning their children’s needs. Josephson said she hoped the board would focus on the children above all else.

“As you begin to make the many difficult and important decisions that you’ll be making over the next few months, I want you to start right now by thinking about children, children that are your primary constituents,” Josephson said. “Our schools have the task of identifying and finding our children’s talents, seeing their beauty and potential, helping them correct their mistakes and do better next time so they can become adults who live together and take care of each other in this beautiful and vibrant democracy. I hope that throughout this process, you will take a moment and imagine the kids and put those kids first.”

School Nurse at P.S. 6 in Jersey City for 18 years, Jackie Matthews asked the board to hire mental health counselors for children who are suffering from extreme anxiety and parental neglect. She said many of the children who are general education students come to school tired, hungry, and filled with anxiety. These children need counseling, she said.

“The children with IEPs get counseling from the social worker, from the school psychologist,  that’s part of their IEP,” Matthews said. “I’m talking about the general ed students who come to school tired, who come to school in the same clothes, who come to school unable to learn because they’re hungry. They’re anxious children who are empty vessels who I fill up one day and who come back the next day empty again.”

Prof. Jyl Josephson

After all the speakers addressed the board, Superintendent Walker thanked them for expressing their concerns about the students. He said the board will focus on restoring “appropriate staff and services to meet the educational needs of the students.”

President Richardson then closed the meeting with a promise to address the issues brought up by the parents and educators. He said, “We will be keeping all your comments in mind and make sure we do everything we can to make sure this budget respects every student in this district.”

President Richardson also said there will be more public meetings scheduled before the March 20 deadline.

Board members in attendance: Superintendent Franklin Walker, President Lorenzo Richardson, Vice President Gina Verdibello, Alexander Hamilton, Gerald Lyons, Marilyn Roman, Lekendrick Shaw, Joan Terrell-Paige, Noemi Velazquez, and School Business Administrator/Board Secretary Regina Robinson.


Next Regular Meeting of the School Board
Thurs, Feb. 27, 6 p.m.
P.S. 41 (Fred W. Martin Center for the Arts)
59 Wilkinson Ave, Jersey City
For more info:


Header: School board holds special meeting for input on 2020-2021 budget.  Photo by Sally Deering



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Via On-Demand Van Service to Commence in Under-Served Jersey City Neighborhoods on Feb. 25

With the call put out for drivers and the princely color of purple decided upon for its vehicles, Via transportation company’s launch of 14 of its vans in Jersey City is slated for Feb. 25, according to a message on the company’s app. The vans are being introduced to provide better transportation between Greenville and the Heights. The six-passenger shuttles, a few of which will be fully electric, will also whisk commuters between these same neighborhoods and the transit hubs in Journal Square and Downtown.

“This innovative tech-based system is going to help create mobility for our residents who live in parts of our city that sometimes lack connectivity,” said Mayor Fulop in a press release.

For many years, Greenville and the Heights have been considered transit “deserts,” places where public bus and train service is sorely inadequate. When in June 2019, Hudson County closed the light rail stations on West Side Avenue, Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive, and Garfield Avenue in order repair sewer lines beneath the tracks, it made these communities only more isolated and inaccessible. Referring to the affected residents, indeed all residents of the underserved neighborhoods, Fulop noted the shuttles would “ease their commutes and diminish their frustration.”

Rides on the vans will cost $2 one way and will deposit customers within three blocks of their requested destinations; wheelchair-accessible versions will be available. To arrange for pickups, riders can use an app or place a phone call. Initially only credit cards will be accepted, though the company does offer a cash option in cities it’s been operating in for some time; service hours will be Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

How does Via differ from the private jitneys operating in Hudson County? Like the jitneys, the vans will transport numerous people at once; unlike them, they will be available on demand, and the stops will not be pre-fixed; each van’s course will be determined by proprietary software based on passengers’ needs at the time of scheduling. In this regard they are like Ubers and Lyfts.

Via touts its product as the best of the old and the new. Their technology allows the firms’ engineers to “collect data and build virtual routes that could become formal stops and routes,” a spokesperson said. Passengers will “find it easy to meet their vehicle following booking. They will be directed to a nearby corner within walking distance for pickup.” Wait times should “not exceed 15 minutes,” the spokesperson added.

Via already operates in New York City and Washington D.C. among 45 cities total in North America (and among four other continents). Readers can learn more at

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Five Takeaways from the 14C Art Show

How would a hundred visual artists overhaul an upmarket hotel?  If you’ve ever wondered, your answer is currently at the Hyatt Regency in Exchange Place.  For the next two days, that hotel — or at least two floors of it —  belongs to painters, sculptors, photographers, thread-stitchers and canvas manipulators, lucid dreamers, arts organizers, all-purpose appreciators, and collectors looking to score an ideal piece. The second annual Art Fair 14C opens to the public at noon today and runs until 8 p.m., and if you haven’t had enough, they’ll be doing it again on Sunday from 12 until 6.  Tickets and weekend passes are available through the Eventbrite link at

The action takes place on the eighth and ninth floors, which means you’ll get an impressive look at the Hudson River between glances at artworks. The ninth floor of the hotel hosts a juried show of pieces by New Jersey artists; they’re all together in one grand exhibition gallery.  On the eighth floor, each room has been given over to a single artist, artist collective, or arts organization to arrange according to their whims. Many of these artists are also locals, but a few have come to Exchange Place from much farther away. Attendees are encouraged to meander down the halls of the hotel, probing these makeshift galleries one after another. It feels a bit like eavesdropping, a bit like party-crashing, and more than a little like urban exploration.

We headed to the Hyatt for a Friday night preview, and didn’t know what to expect. What we found was a grand, generous exhibition that, despite its size, was surprisingly coherent. Themes emerged: the beauty of the post-industrial environment and the repurposing of found objects, whimsy and good humor, depictions of streetscapes, roadways, bridges and girders, and, naturally, a copious amount of Jersey love. Here are a few other things we learned at this blowout event — one that’s a hoot to experience, and a quick way to understand the scope and depth of local visual art as well.

Artists really know how to redecorate a hotel room.  

The rooms at the Hyatt aren’t too big, but artworks often are. Exhibitors have had to get creative, and in so doing, they’ve managed to transform a corporate hotel into a treasure box of clever surprises. Bayard, the impish spirit behind local gallery Eonta Space, has hung one of his fluffy, huggable Seussian sculptures in a closet as if it was a particularly outré robe (another Bayard work waves hello to visitors on their way in to the hotel.) The bathroom of the NJCU Art Department pop-up gallery has been flooded with enough colored light to make it resemble a disco — and yes, the party extends to the bathtub.

Some of the most striking pieces in the entire fair have been simply lain on the beds like exhausted business travelers: Juichigatsu, an arts organization visiting from Tokyo, has propped up Nobuyuki Fukata’s virtuosic stitched portraits right there atop a queen mattress. No surface is safe from the artists’ imaginations.  Philippe Halaburda, a Brooklyn artist who organizes a confetti-rain of short rectangular strokes of paint into imaginary maps, encourages visitors to affix strips of tape to the window overlooking Jersey City. An hour after the doors opened, that window already looked like a crazy page from a fantasy atlas.

New Jersey artists love to represent New Jersey.

This you probably already knew.  But if by chance you didn’t, the 14C Art Fair — which is, after all, named for a Turnpike exit — ought to put you straight.  Perhaps I’m biased (I am), but I felt that the finest work in the fair was pure Jersey, and Jersey rendered with remarkable fidelity to the source. Tim Daly, a Hoboken painter with a powerful sensitivity to place, somehow squeezed grand, gorgeous images of the Meadowlands and the Pulaski Skyway in his narrow hotel room. The result was something like a Jersey panorama, with familiar images everywhere, and roads leading viewers deeper into the swamps.

“NJCRR Ferry Terminal” by Gary Godbee

The stark realism of Daly’s works was matched, stroke for stroke, by the extraordinary near-precisionist renderings of New Jersey landmarks by Studio 7 artist Gary Godbee. His large and handsome oil painting of the New Jersey Central Railroad ferry terminal was a show-stealer; it radiated pure pride, and that sense of unearthly symmetry usually found in pictures of British manor houses. Then there’s Daly’s strangely unnerving image of cars speeding past the Hope and Blairstown exit on Interstate 80 under a high sky crosshatched with contrails.  The combination of the automated and the bucolic, the machine-framed setting, the promise of escape, the overtones of surveillance, the environmentalist critique alongside the roar of the engine — all of it was pure Garden State.

Other artists were somewhat more allusive.  Loura Van Der Meule, who works in Jersey City, contributed a majestic but somewhat sorrowful portrait of the Powerhouse in oil pastel, its sides cracked and its smokestacks rising against a faint pink sky.  It’s an emotional image.  Yet it wasn’t quite as gripping as her remarkable painting of a sealed entrance to a low building, washed in the faded, institutional blue of Jersey industrial zones.  The Garden State means splashy landmarks, but just as surely, it means particular details that long-time residents will immediately recognize.

Nothing is quite as dreamlike as the built environment.

“Ossoryi 4” by Philippe Halaburda

“When I look at New York City, I see no curves,” said Halaburda of his kaleidoscopic renderings of color and shape.  Instead, Manhattan comes at the artist in right angles and sharp diagonals, pointed, jagged, and perhaps a bit accusatory, and it’s that emotional state that he rendered in his imaginary maps. Anne Finkelstein’s work is more figurative, but hardly less emotional: There’s a soul of abstraction in her paintings of orange construction-worker netting and shafts of light illuminating the off-white tiles of subway stairwells. Her city is brightly-colored, but shadowed, depopulated, but filled with the evidence of human activity.

Finkelstein shared a hotel room with West Orange artist Allan Gorman, who chases a similar aesthetic down darker alleys. Gorman is attuned to the symbolic resonances of windows and walls, and the play of sunlight and shadow on floors. His best work: an image of a single distant open door at the far end of an empty room, its jamb hot with light from an outside source. It could be a factory, or a house abandoned, or one waiting for an occupant. It looks like it has secrets. But it won’t give them up easily.

Some of the best pieces in the fair are in the Jersey juried exhibition – and they show a New Jersey that might not be familiar to visiting New Yorkers.     

Like Gorman, Judith Lieberman gets emotional mileage from a lit-up aperture in a wall. She shows us a house from the outside — snow swirls white against a background of blue twilight. Yet there’s a defiant orange trapezoid shaking a hot fist at the storm. There’s life inside. The dark is closing in, but the permanent flame of electricity will ward it away.

Lieberman has set this scene in Whitehouse Station, a small town connected to the metropolis by Route 22. Near Whitehouse and beyond, the terrain in the Garden State begins to get rougher as the coastal plain gives way to the hills and reservoirs of the West Jersey ranges. This is farmland, and some of the richest in the nation, too, rich enough to hang that famous nickname on the state. James Fiorentino makes that bounty manifest in a startling medium watercolor of a Flemington farmhouse that’s crisp as a photograph. The wooden barn has been battered by the elements, and the tree is withered and autumn-bare, but the impression that the painting gives is one of great solidity and near-permanence.  Like Lieberman’s dream of a winter’s night, this work speaks eloquently of perseverance.

But the best image in the entire Art Fair comes from a familiar source. Photographer Ed Fausty was once the bard of 111 First Street: His portraits of the old Lorillard factory brought its fragility (and the fragility of the community that worked there) to life in colors that were strange, rich, and unearthly.  He’s since decamped to Boonton, where he has a gallery; I’ve been delinquent and I haven’t visited yet. His contribution to 14C makes me want to get in the car immediately. Fausty has photographed a haunted street choked by trees, with the sky overhead slashed by telephone wires. As is often true with Fausty’s photographs, the composition is impeccable, and the tone is downright ominous. With typical Fausty frankness, he’s called it “Looking Down a Very Dark Road.” Sometimes, not much more needs to be said.

This is a collaborative effort from Jersey City’s arts leaders, who demonstrated that their visions are complementary.

The prime mover behind the 14C Arts Fair is Robinson Holloway, who runs the Village West Gallery abutting White Eagle Hall.  She was assisted by Kristin DeAngelis, former owner of the sadly lost 107 Bowers Gallery, and current curator at a pair of Silverman properties which regularly host shows. Many of the most successful pop-ups on the eighth floor were those connected to local galleries: Drawing Rooms, for instance, provided a full bedroom of delights, including three striking grey-and-white pieces by frequent exhibitor Jill Scipione. The Art House, one of the most reliable institutions in town, contributed an entertaining chamber of their own. Many of the exhibitors have studios at MANA Contemporary, and MANA staff was on hand on the ninth floor, distributing material.

Some of the best, and most visible, figures in regional art were present, too: Megan Klim, with her unsettling amalgams of wire, fiber, and rust, Theda Sandiford, with her energetic tangles of multicolored rope, Cheryl Gross and her lurid illustrations of animals, Mustart, with his visual provocation, impeccable sense of balance, and collision of spray paint and magazine clippings. At the Hyatt (of all places) they were singing in harmony; odd harmonies, sure, but odd is good. It’s premature, perhaps, to call this evidence of a movement, but something brilliant is blooming in this town, and 14C is another sign of its florescence. Visual art in Jersey City has a tone and a feel, and a sense of humor, and fierce regional pride. And for the next two days, it has a home on the waterfront.

Jersey City Times readers will receive a 50% discount on tickets by going here:

Art Fair 14C
Hyatt Regency Hotel
2 Exchange Place

Jersey City, NJ 07302

Saturday, 2/22: 12 – 8 p.m.
Sunday, 2/23: 12 – 6 p.m.

Header: “Geo Engineering Over Route 80” by Tim Daly

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Art Review: New Abstract Works by George Goodridge, Debra Lynn Manville, Orlando Reyes and Kati Vilim

Deep Space is an appropriate name for a gallery that focuses on new and unusual art. It’s all unexplored territory out there between the stars. Anything a space cadet might encounter in those vast reaches is bound to be strange and novel and worthy of scrutiny. There are other kinds of deepness too — intellectual depth, emotional depth, conceptual complexity and depth of vision — and Deep Space curators seem intent on creating an environment in which these kinds of creative activities can flourish. There’s also the way in which the name of the gallery describes its position on the map of Jersey City. Deep Space is technically located in the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood, but it’s on the fringe of an industrial zone that has, so far, barely been touched by the great wave of redevelopment that has swept through this town. Their home is deep JC — a part of the city that isn’t included in the destination marketing.

Perhaps it should be. None of our cultural institutions are showing work any fresher or more vital than the paintings and sculptures that have recently been exhibited at Deep Space. If visual art is what Jersey City does best (and it is), Deep Space Gallery is right at the heart of local culture. Its owners have shown a pleasing commitment to affordability, encouraging those who aren’t collectors to dive in and buy a piece. Some excellent small canvases at the gallery’s recent “Gigantic Miniatures” show were priced as low as thirty to forty dollars.

Gallery owners Jenna Geiger and Keith Van Pelt have brought back two of the painters from “Gigantic Miniatures” for “Circle the Square”: Orlando Reyes, who’ll be immediately familiar to longtime followers of Jersey City art, and Debra Lynn Manville, who might not be. Reyes was the founder of 58 Gallery, a Downtown space with an offbeat aesthetic and a communitarian spirit that Deep Space shares. Manville runs a virtual gallery project called “1Million Diamonds” ( that champions abstract geometric work. They’re both participants in the local art scene, which is not uncommon for painters who exhibit at Deep Space.

Reyes and Manville are two sides of the square. The other participants in this well-balanced show are Kati Vilim, whose flat, interlocking fields of color align her work with Manville’s, and George Goodridge, whose twisting, pulling, and warping of canvas makes him as much a sculptor as a painter. Taken collectively, these four artists share an attraction to bold hues, striking shapes, and offbeat rhythms. But what really unites them is their tone. This work is cheerful but not overly so, playful and experimental but not ostentatiously so, gentle but never toothless. Like so much of “Gigantic Miniatures” — and so much of the best Jersey City art — these paintings are weird but welcoming.

“To Dream Of Paradise” by George Goodridge

The weirdest and the friendliest of the quartet is Goodridge, who dabs ameboid ellipses and perfect circles on canvases that have been stretched tight as a Navy bedsheet over balsa wood frames. The frames aren’t visible, but their effect certainly is: this isn’t unlike painting on a cloud or a partially melted marshmallow. Most artists’ focuses get sharper as their works shrinks in size; Goodridge is just the opposite. His vision is best realized in his larger pieces, which are so relentlessly pleasant that their scale never overwhelms the viewer. “The Complexity of Joy,” a sixty-nine-inch tall acrylic painting on a curved canvas, hangs over the show like a thought bubble stuffed with pleasant ideations. “To Dream of Paradise,” a smaller canvas, is a cooler cumulonimbus. It possesses the hovering quality common to Goodridge’s work. It drifts over the viewer, but it never imposes.

“Common Space” by Kati Vilim

Vilim’s paintings, too, feel like unanswered questions. There’s a surprising amount of action happening in these abstract, static panels. Her shapes often float on soft gray backgrounds: They’re curves that cling and repel each other like horseshoe magnets, dark Ls and cubes that lock together to form rectangular prisms, mysterious raven-black cutouts given dimension and a sense of heft by blue accents. Sometimes she makes her shapes leap off of the panels and jostle for position: In “Common Space,” a great blue hook appears to rise and slip atop a pink one. There’s a similar sense of crowding and vague unease in “Summer Blue Influence”: three large figures, tentatively touching, tucked into a tight frame. The most placid of these subtly turbulent panels is a single U composed of pastel-tinted color fields of plaster. It’s called “Something Like Happiness” — not all the way to contentment but an acceptable facsimile thereof.

“Havens” by Debra Lynn Manville

The sharp lines and crisp angles of Vilim’s paintings approach geometric abstraction. Debra Lynn Manville’s work goes all the way and even flirts a bit with the airlessness of corporate logo design. Fans of this style will recognize an enthusiastic practitioner with a steady hand for parallel lines, a good eye for gradients, and commitment to knockout colors. “Tysimmon,” which is painted on a wood panel, achieves a near-metallic shine, like the fender of an automobile under streetlights. “Usilia,” too, generates the illusion of curved space. Too rigorous and too precise to be called psychedelic, Manville’s work does lean toward the surreal: “Havens,” a leftover from the Miniatures show, is strangely suggestive of the plant-stuffed windows of a beachfront hotel.

Manville uses Flashe paint to produce a vinyl-like matte sheen. Reyes is after some attention-grabbing effects, too, and he finds them at the intersection of pigment and metal. By applying color to aluminum surfaces, he gets paint blots to open like flowers or corals. Tiny rivulets of color score these radiant circles of his. He achieves similar results on other surfaces, but the aluminum plates sing loudest. If you’re familiar with the artist, you’ll also be familiar with the effects, too, but even if you’ve seen them before, they retain their ability to startle. Walking past a wall of his paintings is a bit like a trip through a tulip garden: colors and contrasts, pinks and reds in bunches, bouquets generously bestowed, an overwhelming sense of plenty.

Technically, all of these painters are experimenting. They’re pushing at the boundaries of their styles, exploring the power of shape and color, taking chances, doing the sorts of things that an artist does when he or she is subject to the interstellar currents of deep space. Yet there’s so little sweat visible in “Circle the Square” that you may not even notice. All they ask of you is the same thing that all deep space cadets do: Have a little faith, detach from the mothership, and float.

Deep Space Gallery
Circle The Square
Work by George Goodridge, Debra Lynn Manville, Orlando Reyes, and Kati Vilim
77 Cornelison Ave.
On view until February 29

Header: “Origami Sea Owl” by Orlando Reyes

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Death of a Venue: What Does the Future Hold for Live Music in Jersey City?

Fun doesn’t last forever, scenes die, everyone gets old.

On Feb. 1, FM, a beloved, yet struggling venue, presented its final show and took its final bow.

Although only open since May of 2017, FM felt so important to its fans, including this one. Downtown, where it seemed there was a dearth of music venues, FM filled an unmet need, with its unique mix of genres including indie, hip hop, country, and singer-songwriter. Certainly, the club had its ups and downs. Some nights it was so packed it was almost a fire hazard, other nights were so empty that shows got cancelled and the entire place closed early. But in the larger picture the closing of FM demonstrates the difficulty of operating a club downtown amidst changing demographics and high rents.

FM’s closing was a packed night. The majority of the bands were from Hudson County. You could hear it proudly in their accents, and you could hear it when the crowd chanted, “Dancing Tony! Dancing Tony!” Rounds of applause for Dancing Tony erupted throughout the night.

“Dancing” Tony Susco is credited by some for making Downtown Jersey City fun. He is the man behind “Rock-it Docket,” the events and promotion vehicle for many of the music events in town. Its motto is “We run fun,” and it bills itself as “The original source for arts and entertainment in Jersey City.” While some might disagree with this grandiose claim, there’s no doubt Susco had a big influence. After running 58 Gallery, gradually moving on to bigger projects  such as Groove on Grove and Ghost of Uncle Joe’s, and having a hand in nearly every free event that has a stage or books bands across town, it seemed inevitable that he would become the face of FM as the booker, general manager, and part-owner.

In spite of the closing, Tony was optimistic. “Music in Jersey City isn’t ending, bands in Jersey City aren’t ending, good times in Jersey City aren’t ending,” he addressed the crowd in a farewell speech. “We’ve got one last fire for you.” A few moments later, Corey Zack, sound engineer, walked across the stage with a lit baton and stood with it precariously burning for a dangerously long time until he could get it to the bathroom. Later, Dancing Tony, who never crowd surfs, “because he’s too tall,” threw himself into the eager hands of the crowd. It was a hot packed room, with a sticky floor, pulsing with Jersey City pride and accomplishment, pushing against an inevitable end.

Later, Tony told me, “Tonight was like burying a live person.”

Another short-lived venue that evokes heavy nostalgia is Funhouse at 32 Center Street, which was live from 2015-2017. Originally a biker club, Xylo-punk band Crazy and the Brains used the location as a practice space and eventually turned it into a DIY venue. Everything they did was fun and community driven,even politically and socially consciou, (although not necessarily legal vis a vis permits and licensing).

According to front man Chris Urban, “Funhouse was open for two years. It was an all-ages, DIY music venue/rehearsal studio/art collective/safe space. We hosted musical artists of all genres, typically punk, hip-hop, folk and metal, plus stand-up comedy, spoken-word poetry and movie screenings. We organized benefit shows for Liberty Humane Society, Boys & Girls Club, Christ Hospital, Liberty State Park, to name a few. Our main goal was pretty simply to give DIY punk energy a presence in the area we lived in. We lived in an apartment literally around the corner. We put on the type of shows that we wanted to go to. Funhouse ended because the property was sold, and we were kicked out.”

Why do some venues in Jersey City struggle? Is it because the acts aren’t good enough? Is it lack of interest? Astronomically high rent? Is it because the wave of gentrification flooding Downtown drowned out local culture? Is it simply the kind of music offered? Or is Jersey City over as a scene for the kind of music FM championed?

Or maybe it’s just about having a room. Todd Abramson, WFMU’s “Todd-O-Phonic Todd,” booker of White Eagle Hall, Landmark Loew’s, and former manager of Maxwell’s in Hoboken, said, “One thing that Maxwell’s had that worked well was separate rooms. I think that is very advantageous for a number of reasons, but it is not always logistically possible.” FM did not have a separate room.

“It’s not that you can’t ultimately make money from it, it is just not going to likely be the easiest or most lucrative way to do it. The current rents as well as the cost of a liquor license do make trying to open a new venue here somewhat daunting as in most major cities. But, I don’t think it’s impossible.”

Photo: White Eagle Hall by Melissa Surach

However, there are plenty of other venues that are keeping the fire alive. Jersey City has other rooms for sure even if not all of them have stages. Headroom Bar and Social, a cavernous space with a full backline (including a piano) and no-frills bar is quickly becoming a go-to for music showcases and open mics. (A backline is an enclosure for amps and speakers.) Fox and Crow has a lovely, intimate room in the heights; McGinley Square Pub has hosted a comedy festival in its tiny back room; Bright Side Tavern regularly has musical and comedy acts in its dining room (which is separate from its bar); Pet Shop hosts basement shows and second-floor festivals; Journal Square Lounge has basement performances; White Eagle Hall, the esteemed music hall on Newark Avenue, a block away from FM, has a capacity of 800 people, and according to Abramson, it’s doing fine.

Despite FM’s demise, many bookers in town remain optimistic about the future of live entertainment in Jersey City. Margo Parks, who produces the Jersey City Jazz Festival, books Fox and Crow, and organizes events in the Heights like Vault Allure and River View Fisk’s Music in the Park says, “We can’t assume it is the music that is responsible for a club closing. There are a couple of new and reopened venues such as Moore’s Lounge and Headroom. So as far as the future of live entertainment, to me it feels like it is thriving.”

Parks does acknowledge that “music venues and musicians can’t survive if they are the only ones supporting each other.” Indeed, she calls for “the entire community to be our audience and support the arts.” But to get the recipe right, presenters will need to experiment. “Music tastes are so diverse … it’s playing roulette to try and guess what will consistently bring folks out,” she states. Perhaps the biggest factor is quality. “It is unreasonable for us as presenters to expect community support unless we keep presenting music that is both interesting and quality.”

Abramson agrees. “I know some venues have either closed (FM) or stopped most of their music programming (Monty Hall). A lot of people feel things are looking grim, but I’ve found that generally speaking there tends to be an ebb and flow, and I am hoping things pick up again soon. I know there are a few things loosely being planned, and I hope they pan out.”

Meanwhile, Moore’s Lounge, a longstanding jazz lounge for nearly 50 years, at 189 Monticello, quietly reopened in early January after a year of renovations. Winard Harper, Moore’s resident jazz band leader, orchestrated a big show there on Jan. 19. The club is also planning to reinstate its “Meet the Artist” series soon.

Urban is also optimistic. “Regardless of what the reason or reasons may be that cause music venues to struggle, I think it’s extremely important that new ones continue to open whether it be legally or illegally. I’m happy to see venues have a long lifespan, but even those that are open as little as six months have an impactful influence on the culture and art community. I hope someone is working on opening up a new music venue right now.”

Header: Dancing Tony at FM’s closing. Photo Melissa Surach

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Friends of the Loew’s Contract Expiring Though Group to Remain Involved

Friends of the Loew’s, the Jersey City-based non-profit organization that has worked to keep the Loew’s Jersey theater in operation since 1987 and that has been in litigation with the city since 2013 will cease to have formal ties with the city at the end of this month when its contract expires. Despite these circumstances, the volunteer-run group will remain involved in the Journal Square landmark theater for at least the immediate future.

Professional theater management companies are also vying to run the theater going forward. Just who will get the rights to do so and to perhaps reshape the mission of the theater in so doing has been hotly debated for more than six years now.

In November 2013 Mayor Fulop informed FOL that he planned to replace them with a professional theater management company. This spurred the nonprofit group to file a verified complaint against Jersey City, citing several charges including breach of lease and breach of covenant of implied/explicit good faith and fair dealing. Last year County Superior Court Judge Hector Velazquez sided with FOL, stating its lease was valid and paving the way for them to continue as sole operators of the theater for the duration of its contract.

Photo courtesy Friends of the Loew’s Facebook by Garrett Ziegler

The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre is located at 54 Journal Square across from the Journal Square Path Station. The well-known theatre is one of five movie palaces opened by The Loew’s Corporation in 1929 and features a stage and as well as a movie screen. The building’s extravagant design was meant to inspire moviegoer’s awe. As guests waited for movies to begin, they would be entertained by an organist who would rise from below the stage and play.

To the extent that FOL wishes to remain heavily involved in the theater’s future, it has a lot to do with the group’s history, accomplishments, and priorities. Executive Director Colin Egan attracted volunteers to restore the theater all of who shared a common interest in preserving the movie palace. “That’s a unique bond, and it speaks the kind of emotions that this building and a lot of the old buildings developed in their own communities,” he said.

Equally important to Egan and to Pattie Giordan, Egan’s cofounder and president of FOL, is the culturally diverse nature of the cinema’s offerings. In March, for instance, there will be a Filipino concert at the venue (something FOL is producing despite its contract ending). Dramas created by children are also expected to be shown.

Egan recognizes that should a professional theater management company take over the landmarked venue, it will likely result in further restoration of the property, which is a good thing for everyone. He simply does not want the theater to be “seen solely as just another commercial pop venue palace.” For him as well as for Giordan, the theater’s affordability is also a priority.

While certainly facing a transition this year, FOL remains optimistic.

Giordan noted, “The city has invited us to sit down and talk with them about the next step. “I am certain one way or another FOL will still be here.” Egan confirmed his colleague’s sentiments. “We will be in the position, one way or another to preserve the history, the community involvement, [and] the art programming.”

Header:  Jersey City Times photo

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