By TOM CHESEK
An “Art Walk” can be a tricky thing; a study in dueling impulses, in which one part of you the part that wants to linger long on a single painted image or sculpted object is forced to contend with the part that needs to keep moving and simply can’t wait to discover what new source of inspiration waits around the next corner.
It was with those conflicting, complementary impulses in mind that the art galleries of Red Bank banded together seven years ago to present the first in what has become a series of annual springtime Artwalk events, free and entirely self-guided excursions that allow perambulating patrons an opportunity to experience the borough’s artscape at one’s own pace.
The idea: give everybody a map, set them loose on the sidestreets and alleyways of the downtown, and let them make of it what they will.
In tandem with Red Bank RiverCenter, nine borough-based galleries and purveyors of limited-edition artworks are joining once more for the 2008 edition of Artwalk, taking place this Saturday, May 3, between the hours of 6 and 9p.
The low-key showcase event is a relaxed, unregimented way to acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with the state of the art scene here on the banks of the Navesink, with a major new player (Asher Neiman Gallery) and a stunningly revamped, relocated showroom (Beacon Fine Arts) among the more recent additions to the returning favorites.
While you’re out there walking the streets, why not take a few moments to process the ways in which the local gallery scene has impacted the look and the feel of the downtown district? Whether it’s a specialty boutique business like Carter + Cavero or Chic Optique; a forward-thinking home store like Red Ginger or Design Front; a stylish watering spot like Teak or Red even a tourist-destination emporium like Fameabilia or Jay and Silent Bob’s Red Bank’s standing as a go-to source for intriguing regional galleries has upped the ante in the ways a savvy storefront can transform or even transcend its physical boundaries. At its best, the entire downtown can sometimes seem like one great big group exhibit.
Following are the 2008 Artwalk map and a brief rundown of this year’s participants.
1) KINGSLEY ART GALLERY. Located a few blocks west of the other eight stops on the tour in the former factory building known as The Galleria, whose brick walls and impressive scale form an organically pleasing gallery backdrop. Among the cavalcade of works hosted here are the photorealistic wine studies of Thomas Arvid, the sunlit melancholy of Anne Packard‘s peaceful Shore scenes, and the mother-daughter moments captured beautifully by veteran book illustrator Pino.
2) CHETKIN GALLERY. Tucked away on fast-morphing Wharf Avenue, this specialist in French painters (both 19th century and contemporary) currently hosts a Spring Showcase that spotlights work by Michel Moreau, Kerry Hallam and Federica Ravizza.
3) LAUREL TRACEY GALLERY. A driving force behind the Artwalks and a major player in the presentation of some of the best contemporary American painters exhibiting regionally. Opening on the evening of the May 3 event and continuing through May, a display of Mitchell Johnson‘s depopulated seashore village scenes will kick off with a reception that runs from 6 to 8:30p.
4) INHERITANCE GALLERY. One of two intriguingly off-the-beaten-path places located at the Victorian Courtyard, that quirky set of alleyway shops nestled alongside the landmark Dublin House. Max Bernstein’s passion for authentic and original vintage posters of 19th and early 20th century Europe and America takes flight here, elevating the beer ad and the jazz showbill to the level of highest art.
5) CEL-EBRATION! GALLERY. A unique little piece of Red Bank life for a generation now, this candy-colored cottage storefront houses a formidable collection of movie cartoon cels, framed artwork and limited-edition collectibles based on the best-loved creations of the Disney studios and other famed animation units.
6) McKAY IMAGING. Bob and Liz McKay’s eye for the people and places of the Jersey Shore has won the husband-wife team acclaim for their work in portrait, fashion and commercial contexts. The opening of their own second-floor gallery space a couple of years back bequeathed the local area with its first and only space devoted to regular exhibits of art photography, a comfortable setting for some of the most original perspectives in the region.
7) ASHER NEIMAN GALLERY. Opening at the space recently vacated by the long-running Artforms gallery, Emily Asher Neiman’s vision continues to coalesce behind a multi-artist opening exhibition that includes the impressionist landscapes of Christie Scheele, sculpted bronze figurines by Gina Novendstern, and the richly detailed, starkly beautiful grayscales of photographer George Tice‘s silver gelatin prints.
8) ART ALLIANCE OF MONMOUTH COUNTY. The longest-established and most dazzingly democratic of Red Bank’s galleries offers co-op exhibition space to local artists of all walks and wherefores. Featured for May is a judged show centered around the theme of Mom, with an accompanying display of kid-created works from the Alliance’s children’s workshop.
9) BEACON FINE ARTS. Having moved not long ago to a a pleasantly proportioned Monmouth Street space, the well-established gallery hosts work from a variety of fine and graphic artists, while continuing to spotlight the output of Americana master Ted Jeremenko and legendary book illustrator Tomie dePaola.
Artwalk tour maps can be obtained at any of the participating galleries, or are available from Red Bank RiverCenter at 732.842.4244.