ARTIST HEADS DOWNTOWN

Jim McKenzie with some of his work at David Banegas Studio in Red Bank earlier this year. (Click to enlarge)

By DAN NATALE

The busiest bar night of the year for Red Bank’s Downtown club features a small display of works by an up-and-coming visual artist.

Jim Mckenzie, a 23-year-old from Hazlet, brings his wildly colorful, mystical, and quirky imagination in the form of digital prints and sculptures to the West Front Street watering hole Wednesday night while Brian Kirk & the Jirks put on their customary Thanksgiving Eve show, says Downtown music director Chris Masi.

McKenzie is no stranger to Red Bank or its art scene, having had work featured at the David Banegas Studio on Broad Street.

“McKenzie is the best, you know?” said Banegas. “He is talented, he can paint graphics and paint realistically, and he has a good personality.”

“He’s the real deal. He can do it all,” he added.

It wasn’t hard deciding whether to put McKenzie’s work on display, said the Downtown’s Masi.

“I think his work is brilliant,” he said. “It’s topnotch, and definitely some of the best in New Jersey. He came in to talk to me about displaying some of his work. He sent me digital samples, and the decision was simple.”

McKenzie describes his work as “colorfully playful.” The paintings, films, and digital prints that he creates generally ride along the cusp of reality, offering lucid pictures of colorful dreams filled with mystical creatures, pumpkins crossed with assorted arachnids and mollusks, and the occasional sexy woman.

One of his paintings depicts a dwarfish creature that bears a striking resemblance to Nicki Minaj riding a crowned multicolored walrus through a magical dream ocean.

“I like to have fun with my paintings and not take them too seriously,” he said. “I would hope the viewer reads the work as something fun as well. A lot of artists feel they have to have a big powerful meaning before they start a painting. I feel if you just work from the spur of the moment, the subconscious will paint more of an unknown self-portrait.”

By day, McKenzie works at Nathan Love in New York, a visual effects studio that focuses mostly on character animations. He worked on matte paintings for the film “The Dictator,” and on recent commercials for a Polly Pocket, Michelin, Geico, Hawaiian Punch, and Froot Loops. He has also worked with documentarian Morgan Spurlock on his film ‘Mansome.’

At the Downtown, six pieces will be on display, five of which are digital prints. available at $180 each, as well as an  original mannequin for $1,300. The show precedes McKenzie’s trip next month to Miami Beach, where his work will be featured in the for Art Basel festival, a prestigious art show.

Aside from his prolific work as an artist, McKenzie also has a huge toy collection, which generated interest from the show Comic Book Men, which is anchored at filmmaker Kevin Smith‘s  Jay and Silent Bob comic book store on Broad Street.

“They were supposed to come here and buy some toys from my three-room collection, but that fell through,” said McKenzie. “I wound up just going to the shop and selling my dad’s Star Trek figure” The episode is scheduled to air at Sunday at 11:30 p.m.on AMC.