2022 was not kind to Jersey City artists. It was defined by hesitancy, half-measures, and a doozy of a pandemic hangover. 2023, by contrast, is off to a roaring start. Our early-blooming shows have been glorious. If the first JC Fridays event of the year is often a survey of the scene and an indication of where we might be heading, the message we’re getting is plain to me. Art is sneaking into new quarters, enlivening new city blocks, and beckoning us on new adventures. Our season of stagnation is over: we’re on the move again.
Starting this afternoon and extending into the evening, there’ll be art and music all over town. Some of it is tucked in spaces that haven’t hosted JC Fridays happenings before. Some rooms are opening to their doors to viewers for the first time. I’ve written about the event that I’m most excited about — the premiere of “Once She Dries,” a multimedia piece at SMUSH Gallery (340 Summit Ave., 6-9 p.m.) — in my March music preview column. I’ll be there at six o’ clock tonight for the first showing. But there’s so much good stuff on view tonight that I kinda feel like I could start anywhere. My cap is off to Art House Productions, the organization that throws this party every three months or so. Not every JC Fridays they’ve done has been revelatory or even inspired. But the lineup they’ve assembled this time around is undeniably excellent.
Because JC Fridays is citywide and so many events coincide, it’s impossible to catch everything on a wish list. Luckily, most of these shows will be up for the next few weeks at least, and I’m going to try to write about as many of them as I can. There’s more interesting stuff on view tonight than just this, too; you can look over the master list at the Art House Productions website. Or you can trust me that the following shows are worth your attention.
BACK TO (A TROUBLED) SCHOOL
New Jersey City University is embattled and its creative programs are feeling the financial crunch, but you wouldn’t know it by the quality of the shows that the Art Department is putting on. Much of the credit for that goes to Professor Midori Yoshimoto, who has quietly emerged as one of the arts scene’s most consequential figures — a broad-minded scholar and advocate with an understanding of cultural context and a well-developed sense of play. The latest show that Professor Yoshimoto has attracted to the Visual Arts Gallery (100 Culver Ave., 4-7 p.m.) ought to reinforce her reputation for thoughtfulness and subtle provocation. The engrossing multimedia pieces in Firoz Mahmud’s “Early Episodes II” depict the artist’s native Bangladesh as a tiger roaring back at its British and Mughal imperial oppressors. Mahmud’s busy but beautifully balanced works on paper are heavy with swirls and streaks of ballpoint pen, glittering gold paint, and pigment saturated with crushed pearl. Tonight is also one of your last chances to catch “Kinfolk” by the celebrated Danielle Scott at the Lemmerman Gallery (2039 Kennedy Blvd., room 323 in Hepburn Hall, 5-7 p.m). Her engagement with her ancestors and the brutal legacy of slavery and oppression through painting and sculpture is sharp, emotionally courageous, and thoroughly moving, even (especially?) when it gets downright weird.
A BOUNTY AT 150 BAY
The big building on the westernmost Bay Street block in the Warehouse District is always a hub of activity during any citywide arts event. But a trip to 150 Bay ought to prove particularly rewarding tonight. “Flora & Fauna,” a group show inspired by the turn of the seasons and the natural world, gathers work by many of the ProArts favorites in the ART150 Gallery on the second floor (150 Bay St., 5-9 p.m.). Linda Streicher, the juror who selected the pieces, is an oil painter with a hypnotic signature style derived from architecture. How will Streicher harmonize the rhythms of the built environment with the personality of the biosphere? A few studio doors down (#231 to be exact, at 6-8 p.m.), Theda Sandiford, decorator of shopping trolleys and weaver of found textiles that achieve the density of dreadlocks, leads a rope-making workshop. On the ground floor, Juice Box JC, the smoothie shop adjacent to the gymnasium opens Box Gallery (6-9 p.m.) with a vibrant-looking collective exhibition that includes work by paper-weaver Tali Rose Krupkin and the pained, expressive Venezuelan-American portraitist Emily Linares. For something more muted — but likely every bit as emotionally complex — direct yourself to the Outliers Gallery (#246, 5-9 p.m.) for “Quiet, Please,” a series of meditative photographs from the visual poet Dorie Dahlberg.
TAKING THE ELEVATOR TO THE TOP FLOOR
The studio doors at Elevator JC (135 Erie St., 6-9) didn’t swing open for the year’s initial Downtown Art Crawl. They’ll make up for that tonight. There’ll be plenty of colorful distractions on every level, but one of the most intriguing spaces is paces down the farthest hallway of the highest floor. That’s where the JC Print Room (#512, 6-9 p.m.) has set up its headquarters. Bruno Nadalin, teacher and operator of the antique printing equipment in the studio, is presenting “Imps & Needles,” a show dedicated to his recent etchings. Judging by those I’ve seen at shows at 150 Bay, EONTA Space and elsewhere, you can expect them to be twisted, spooky, heavy with black expanses and populated by beleaguered humans in peril. Elevator director and organizer Shamona Stokes will, no doubt, have her studio doors open. But she’s also a contributor to the inaugural exhibition at Evening Star Studio (11 Monitor St., 4-7 p.m.), a freshly minted art space around the corner from Mordi’s Sandwich Shop (if you’re hungry for falafel). Stokes is one of six ceramicists presenting work in “Seeing Other People,” a show that will also include sculptures by the texturally inventive Doris Caciolo, tilemaker Beth DiCara, and the unflinching Anonda Bell, appreciator of invertebrates.
THE TROUBLEMAKERS OF MCGINLEY SQUARE
Lauren Farber makes dandelion seed designs and paper towers out of the pages of old books. Bayard fashions giant artificial cardinal wings and feather boas out of old textiles. Dan Peyton takes photographs of old buildings, and silk screens images on the back of old wood cases. If you’ve ever wanted to get to the heart of the aesthetic at Eonta Space (34 DeKalb Ave., 6-10 p.m.), the principals behind the gallery at the end of a little cul-de-sac have joined forces for a “Founders Day” show that foregrounds their skill at adaptive reuse. Their resourcefulness and love of mischief will surely be on display, too. Over at the more sedate Fine Arts Gallery at the Mac Mahon Student Center at Saint Peters University (47 Glenwood Ave., 5-7 p.m.), a trio of accomplished landscape painters stick up for the endangered outdoors. That includes work from Katrina Bello, whose drawings at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey plunged viewers into the depths of rock formations and roiling oceans, and Jersey City storytelling painter Peter Delman, whose canvases always crackle with narrative tension. Oh, and while there’s not much information about the exhibition at the McGinley Square Pub (755 Montgomery St., 6-10 p.m.), “Tiny Scenes of Everyday Things and More” promises the sort of immersion in urban particularity common at shows mounted in Jersey City’s most interesting neighborhood. I’m definitely checking it out.
A PERSONAL TURN
Since reopening, Drawing Rooms (926 Newark Ave., 4-7 p.m.) has hosted shows of uncommon intimacy. “’Tall Tales’ and Other Truths” pushes that to a remarkable extreme. It’s an exhibition of small gestures that open little windows on to enormous happenstances. In so doing, it lays bare the artists’ personal experiences with the legacy of the holocaust, the reality of racial oppression and bondage, and other historical crimes that continue to upend the lives of ordinary people. Of particular interest: Noelle Lorraine Williams’s digital reconstruction of places in Newark of significance to the Civil Rights movement, and Willie Cole’s ironing board, stained brown in crown-like patterns from the press of the steaming metal. RU8ICON1 works on the streets, but he’s interested in interiors, too. In his destabilizing paintings, on display at “Shifting Tides” at the Majestic Theatre Condominiums (222 Montgomery St., 6-8 p.m.), he plays with time and perception, and presents urban landscapes and living rooms as reflections of psychological states. Finally, Art House Productions will host a show of their own at their glass-windowed new Gallery (345 Marin Blvd., 6-7 p.m.) — an overview of the color-drenched, dreamlike, deeply personal paintings of Mark Kurdzeil. It’s only on view for an hour, but the Gallery promises many more showings during March, including viewing hours on Saturday and Sunday. In that way, it stands in for the entire March ’23 JC Fridays roster: a teaser, a hallmark, a burst of smoke from a starter’s pistol announcing a hyper-vivid spring and summer to come.
Painting at top by Danielle Scott