Rita Asch and Frank Magalhaes are partners in life, and have partnered in their artwork. From Jan. 8-Feb. 7, their partnership will extend to a shared exhibit at Gallery 14 in Hopewell.
The couple traveled to Morocco in the fall of 2008, and from that 2,500-mile journey they have assembled Morocco, the exhibit, to give the viewer a compact, composite image of the country. If you have always wanted to experience Morocco, from its Atlantic and Mediterranean seacoasts to the Atlas mountains, from its cities, both ancient and modern, to its vast interior desert regions, from its charming people to the animals they use in their daily lives, this exhibit is the next best thing to actually traveling there. Even the scents of Morocco can be experienced at Gallery 14.
Among the works are a large canvas hanging on which Mr. Magalhães has produced a black and white image of a ruined mosque in which the gray values have been replaced by text telling the history of the area in which the mosque is found. The other is a multimedia (sound and scent) piece, Voices, in which Ms. Asch, a life-long musician and composer who has only recently begun to explore photography as well, shows the similarity among Turkish, Hebraic and Moroccan musical modes enhanced by the scents of the spice markets found in those parts of the world. (This installation was also on view in Connect/ReConnect, the Movis exhibits at the Gallery at Mercer County College, and I can attest to the fact that even for the unwilling, the scent of spices is real!)
Looking at some of the pictures in the show one might think they had been taken hundreds of years ago. There are winding cobbled streets so narrow they seem like tunnels navigated by people on foot and carts drawn by mules and donkeys; wide, open landscapes abound, many completely devoid of vegetation, where water must be drawn from the occasional well with a bucket, a rope and a hand-operated windlass.
Of the many cultures that live in Morocco the primary two are Arab and Berber. Arabs brought their distinctive architecture and Islam to Morocco and its ancient Berber population when they migrated from the middle-east centuries ago. The solid, square minarets of mosques stand tall in the cities as well as in villages in the countryside, and key-hole arches are a prominent feature in most buildings, public and private.
Morocco has ancient ruins from the time the Romans occupied the country as well as more recent ruins from the Arabian invasion. In some parts of the country the remains of both powerful cultures exist at the same site, not a great surprise since those are usually places where an army could defend itself most easily.
Gallery 14, 14 Mercer St., Hopewell, is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. 609-333-8511; www.photogallery14.com.