On the Movis

Visitors are invited to connect with contemporary art at the Gallery at Mercer County Community College. The exhibit, Connect, encourages viewers to explore some of the ideas and relationships behind 16 installations. Connect runs to Nov. 12, on the second floor of the college’s Communications Building on the West Windsor campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. It will then be reinstalled Nov. 24-Dec. 27.

Connect is curated by the eight-person artist group Movis, in collaboration with Tricia Fagan, director of the Gallery. Eight additional artists working in contemporary media or themes, including MCCC Professor of Visual Arts Yevgeniy Fiks, have been invited to exhibit as well. Among the 16 works on display are sound installations, interactive video stations, sculpture, photography, prints, and multi-media sculptures, many installed with objects that inspired or directed the development of the artwork.

The exhibit invites viewers to think more closely about some connections that the artist has made with objects, art history, personal concerns, and other factors while developing and creating his or her artwork. What inspires the artist? How does a specific influence come to life in his or her hands? Is there something going on under the surface of the piece? And what are the connections – both subtle and obvious – between the works of the artists?

The audience will have an opportunity to discover and share their own ideas about connections between the pieces. A suggestion box will be in the Gallery throughout the exhibit, along with a white board where visitors can experiment with different ways to display the art. At the end of Connect, the artists will review all the suggestions, and then will re-install the exhibit based on those ideas. The newly mixed show, ReConnect, will run from Nov. 24 to Dec. 17.

The internationally and nationally known artists featured in Connect include: Peter Arakawa, Rita Asch, Berendina Buist, Mark Cooley, Anne Dixon, Yevgeniy Fiks, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Brian Goings, John Goodyear, Susan Hockaday, Lucy Hodgson, Eve Ingalls, Margaret Kennard Johnson, Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, Marsha Levin-Rojer, and Frank Magalhaes.

Gallery hours: Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.; Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.; and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
http://www.mccc.edu/gallery.

Pictured, above: Caroline Lathan-Stiefel’s “City Fire 2″

In the summer of 2008, I saw an exhibit by Movis at the Mason Gross School of Arts. Here’s what I wrote about them back then, in a piece titled “Movis and Shakers”:

BON Appetit in the Princeton Shopping Center is known for its fine chocolates and cheeses. In the spirit of a true French café, it is also the birthplace of Movis, a group of Princeton-area artists who meet regularly to discuss their calling.

It began a year and a half ago when sculptor, curator and Rutgers University Art Professor Emeritus John Goodyear and his wife, Anne, encountered artists Margaret Kennard Johnson and Eve Ingalls eating lunch there. Joining them, the conversation was so stimulating and provocative, the group decided to meet again, adding pianist-composer Rita Asch, photographer Frank Magalhaes, and artists Marsha Levin Rojer and Berendina Buist.

Others came and went, the frequency of the meetings was stepped up to weekly, and the venue was moved to the dining room at the Institute for Advanced Study, where the group could gather around a large table. Ms. Buist came up with the name Movis. “I think I invented it,” she said at the Mason Gross Galleries in New Brunswick.

“I Googled it and I kept getting misspellings of ‘movies.’ It has something to do with movement, motion and concept, but it can be anything you want. It sounds familiar, but it isn’t.”

When photographer Susan Hockaday was invited to join, she remarked, “I think I’m supposed to know what it means, but I don’t,” according to Ms. Buist.

“It has something to do with computer science, and it’s an acronym,” says Mr. Magalhaes.

“But it has nothing to do with it,” continues Ms. Asch, his life partner.

“The word has a lot of potential and we can be it,” says Ms. Buist.

“We can be movies misspelled,” adds Mr. Goodyear.

The catalyst for discussions may be a catalog from a show that has caught a Movis member’s attention. “Then we’ll have homework on post-modernism assigned by our professor,” jokes Mr. Magalhaes, referring to Mr. Goodyear, who imparts leadership to the group in a gentle, selfless way. He brings a thick textbook on art theory to help stimulate discussion.

But there are no tests.

“Slowly but surely we develop the vocabulary to talk about what we do and exchange ideas,” says Ms. Buist, a native of the Netherlands who lived in Italy for 10 years before settling in the U.S. in 1999. With a master’s degree in social science, Ms. Buist, who designed the catalog for In Suspension, was always interested in art and photography, and has taken art classes at Raritan Valley Community College.

The High Bridge resident met Ms. Johnson when both were exhibiting at Gallery 31 in Glen Gardner. The two began exchanging ideas, including one discussion on quantum physics “which I don’t know anything about,” recounts Ms. Buist.

Her work in In Suspension is a series of four hanging photographic prints on flowing silk cloth of a woman dancing with a piece of silk. “I always wanted to move away from straight photography,” she says. “I wanted it to move, not be square and behind glass. So I started to print my images on silk and other substrates to be fluid and have motion. People connect to kinetic work.”

Titled “Healing Body,” it started as a project on scars. “Scars are very abstract, and I was thinking about lines and combining an interest in the abstract with the human condition,” she says. But then Ms. Buist became more interested in the texture of skin and the stories her subjects would tell.

When this particular subject arrived at the studio, Ms. Buist found her beautiful and knew she wanted to put the print on silk so gave her a piece of the fabric. “She went all out,” recalls Ms. Buist. “She put on music, took off her clothes and performed for me. She was liberated. Her spirit shines through. I was lucky to find her and she’s become a good friend.”

Ms. Asch’s work, “Au Jardin de Proust,” is a sound landscape. “A friend and I spent three years reading Proust, and it activated ideas. This is the culmination,” she says. Charles Rojer, a native of Belgium and husband of artist Marsha Levin Rojer, was chosen to read the text because of the timbre of his voice as well as his fluency in the French language.

Ms. Asch selected bits of voice and interspersed it with electronic cello music, then cut and pasted different parts of the sound as one might do in word processing. “Words were extended, the pitch was changed, there are repetitions and the duration is stretched out,” says Mr. Magalhaes, who served as sound engineer on the project. “It’s like a puzzle.”

On parting the black curtain and entering the darkened room, then taking a seat on the park bench that is the only physical object in the room, one hears the elongated sounds of such French words as “fleur,” “rouge,” “rose,” seulement” and “livre.” And yet the meaning of the words is irrelevant in this six-minute loop; rather, the words and voice become the music.

“My hope is that people will let go of language and absorb the color and mood rather than the meaning,” says Ms. Asch.

The garden bench is a replica of one Ms. Asch saw on a visit to Proust’s home outside Paris last year.

Mr. Magalhaes’ own work, “I Am a Tree – Variations,” is based on a black-and-white photograph he made of a thread leaf maple tree in Princeton’s Marquand Park. Although the actual tree was only about 10 feet tall, here it looks mammoth because Mr. Magalhaes shot it from a low perspective. The award-winning image was exhibited at Gallery 14 in Hopewell and at the Ellarslie Open in Trenton.

Here, he played with the tonal values of this image, then suspended it in a Lucite fan that shows six different facets. Using a transfer curve in PhotoShop, he changed the tonal range of black to white, so black tones become white and white becomes black. It’s not exactly a true negative, so he has one image that is a true negative. The image, so striking in its original form, takes on even new beauty in its variations, where lines and shapes and forms that weren’t on the original appear.

“With digital photography you can do amazing things if you let your mind go and use the tools at your disposal,” says Mr. Magalhaes, an engineer who has been editor and publisher of the Higginsville Reader and managing editor of U.S. 1 Worksheets. “As with any art, it’s how you use the tools.”

This remarkable exhibit includes work by Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Jackie Matisse (granddaughter of Henri), and many other important and well-known artists Mr. Goodyear and Movis members found.

Ms. Johnson, who has been spending a good deal of time upstate New York these days, has one of her nylon mesh works, similar to one she has in the permanent collection at the Princeton Public Library with a book form in the middle, hanging here. “She is very interested in the moiré that takes place when you walk by,” says Mr. Goodyear, whose “Red, Yellow, Blue Construction” (from 1978), hangs alongside Ms. Johnson’s. It plays similar tricks on the eye when one walks by, and Mr. Goodyear gives it a gentle tap that sets it into motion, making the primary colored blocks on strips blend together in a mesmerizing effect.

“When the viewer starts it in motion, the viewer is responsible for what he or she will see,” says Mr. Goodyear, whose work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian and many others. “The viewer contributes to the work of art. The angle at which you stand affects what you see, and what you bring tells what you’ll find out in the work.”

Mr. Goodyear, who has curated exhibits on Dada´ ism and on artists who were inspired by irons, is a long-time fan of Duchamp and Calder, around whom  this exhibit revolves, both literally and figuratively.

“What these two innovators and friends share is a deep sense of fun, a delight in the unexpected, and a keen interest in art that moved without the aid of machines,” writes art critic John Yau in the catalog essay. Both suspended work from the ceiling, and it was Duchamp who invented the term mobile for Calder’s hanging works. Before In Suspension was even suspended, Movis was planning its second show, to be held at Princeton  Day School in November. Struggling with the concept of the white cube of space that that gallery is, the working title is “Nibbling the White Cube.” “We’re Movis, and we’ll do it our own way,” says Ms. Buist.

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