RED BANK: TALKING ‘BOUT JERSEY ARTISTS

evelyn-leavensThe late Red Bank artist Evelyn Leavens (above) is among the creative people showcased in ‘New Jersey Artists Through Time,’ a new book by Middletown-based author and artist Tova Navarra that inaugurates a series of events at Red Bank Public Library.

NJ Artists Thru TimeA quick flip through the newly published New Jersey Artists Through Time reveals a number of creative people whose lives and work were well known here on the Greater Red Bank Green. There’s the late lifelong Red Banker Evelyn Leavens, profiled here a few years back; Jim Gary, legendary maker of dinosaurs from repurposed auto parts; Mike Quon, painter of stylized local landmarks; plus Riccardo Berlingeri, Grace Graupe-Pillard, Judy Martin, Bob Mataranglo, and George Tice.

They’re all there, sharing space with the likes of superstar sculptor George Segal, celebrated printmaker Jabob Landau, and Emmy-winning courtroom artist Ida Libby Dengrove, in the first such study to come along in over 50 years. The books is just the latest of more than 30 published titles for its Middletown-based author — artist, photographer, educator, journalist, former Asbury Park Press art critic and registered nurse Tova Navarra — and the subject of the first in a new series of free ‘Author Talks’ events at Red Bank Public Library, this Wednesday.

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RED BANK: PUNNINGLY PAINTED, BY GEORGE

Piano_DivePIANO DIVE and other paintings by George Severini are the subject of both a book signing and a gallery exhibit that opens Friday evening at McKay Imaging. (Click to enlarge)

Taken together, the artworks comprise a collection that’s as much smile-inducing Joke Book as serious coffeetable conversation piece. A series of colorful Photoshop-crafted illustrations – executed with jazzy mid-century verve, each a playful riff on a musically-minded turn of phrase – the exhibit “Piano Dive” assembles a thematically linked cycle of throughly-modern images by one of the Red Bank area’s greatest conservators of visual history, George Severini.

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LITTLE SILVER, M’TOWN: LIBRARY LEGENDS

eileen-moon-021814-500x375LEGENDARY LOCALS OF RED BANK author Eileen Moon visits the Little Silver Library on Monday evening…while Next Stage Ensemble brings a little Shakespeare to the Middletown Township biblio.

There’s the pioneering African American journalist T. Thomas Fortune, whose historic home is currently the subject of an intensive rescue effort. Industrialist Sigmund Eisner, whose legacy includes a public library, a Galleria, and a former chairman of the Disney entertainment empire. Trailblazing attorney Florence Forgotson Adams, the father-and-son Drs. James Parker, the Dorns, the Irwins — and famed illustrator James Avati, the “Rembrandt of the Paperbacks” remembered in a 2011 feature that appeared here on redbankgreen.

They are all among the Legendary Locals of Red Bank profiled by veteran newspaperwoman Eileen Moon in her new book, an entry in the series from Arcadia Publishing that the author will discuss in a free Monday night reading/ signing appearance at Little Silver Public Library. Going up at 7 pm, it’s part of a busy itinerary by the equally legendary reporter and editor, who in a recent feature on redbankgreen described her concept of a Legendary Local thusly: “It takes a strong personality, and a vision, and a risk-taker sometimes, to change what is into some new evolution of that.”

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WEEKEND: MOODY BLUE & MINTY GREEN

stPatsThe second annual Rumson St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes to the borough streets on Sunday. Below, the Moody Blues.

Friday, February 28:

MoodysRED BANK: From the harmonies of their early, raw recordings to the dramatic sweep and ambitious scope of their orchestral masterpieces – to their repeated reunions, and a new century of crowdpleasing tours – one might be tempted to call them the British Beach Boys.

But the Moody Blues have done what they’ve done without all the meltdowns, litigation, and endless appearances on the county fair circuit of their American cohorts. And this weekend, the longtime trio of Justin Hayward (guitar), John Lodge (bass) and Graeme Edge (drums) comes to Red Bank for two consecutive nights (Friday and Saturday, 8 pm) at the Count Basie Theatre, on a Timeless Flight Tour that promises to mix those lush album-era radio classics (“Tuesday Afternoon,” “Question,” “Ride My Seesaw” and the game-changing “Nights in White Satin”) with more recent vintage oldies (“Your Wildest Dreams,” “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”) and highlights from solo projects past. Leaving the symphony orks at home, the core Moodies are joined by an auxiliary corps of young musicians on keyboards, flute and extra drums. Tickets ($50 – $145) can be reserved right here.

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A FALL BOUNTY OF GALLERY SHOWS

The Red Bank Holiday Art Walk takes to the streets once more on November 24. Norman Rockwell protege Peter Caras, right, joins some formidable colleagues this Saturday at Middletown Arts Center.

When Hurricane Sandy threw the entire Jersey Shore into a Dark Ages interlude of blackouts, curfews, detours, closings and major transportation issues, nearly every scheduled event this side of Thanksgiving was forced to take a step back.

But according to gallery curator Robert Langdon, rumors of the postponement of this month’s Red Bank Art Walk have been greatly exaggerated. In fact the November 24 re-appearance of the pavement-pounding promenade represents a resource that can help the borough “recapture its vibrance, especially after the recent devastation Monmouth County suffered from Hurricane Sandy,” he said in an email to redbankgreen.

Taking place on from 5 to 9 pm onNational Small Business Day, the holiday edition of the recently revived art walk brings together some 20 borough-based galleries, upscale retailers, restaurants and places of worship for a four hour, self-guided walking tour organized under the theme “A Gift of Art is a Gift of the Heart.” Langdon’s Gallery U (where the group show Cornucopia opens with a 6 to 9 pm reception on Friday, November 23) joins with such traditional (and non-traditional) artspaces as the Art Alliance of Monmouth County, Beacon Fine Arts Gallery, Frame to Please, Studio 25, Gallery 135 at the Red Bank Community Church (the second-story “storefront” house of worship in the Prown’s building on Monmouth Street), Jamian’s Food and Drink, as well as Garmany, Amy Manor Interior Design and several other art-friendly venues. Street maps (featuring the participating Art Walk locations plus recommended places to dine) will be made available to those who stroll and/or roll — and there’s even a trolley shuttle service running between the various locations.

The virtual art walk continues in and around the greater Red Bank Green this weekend, with a special event in Middletown (rescheduled from the bleak beginning days of November), as well as ongoing exhibits in Shrewsbury, Lincroft, Little Silver and downtown Red Bank…

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TURNING HEADS, WITH THE TOWN AS CANVAS

Shay Guiod prepared to hang one of  Dumitru Gorzo’s paintings at the Two River Theater on Sunday, above, having installed another at Space Interiors on White Street, below.

By TOM CHESEK

The opening of an exclusive major exhibition of paintings by an internationally acclaimed artist would be a feather in the cap of any town — and an absolute must for a cranny of culture that was ranked third on Smithsonian Magazine’s list of the 20 Best Small Towns in America.

A feather goes to Red Bank, then, for landing HEADS, an ongoing, open-air (and in-your-face) “observation of the individual spirit” that takes to the borough’s exterior walls from these dog-star days of August to the harvest-moon evenings of early autumn.

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REMEMBERING THE REMBRANDT OF RED BANK

avatibroadstThe late James Avati, pictured above right at his Broad Street studio in the early 1990s, employed friends, family members and Red Bank neighbors as models for his sought-after paperback covers. Avati returned to the Little Silver milieu of his early years, in the 1999 photo below. (Avati photos by Piet Schreuders; click the one below to enlarge)

avatililsilvBy TOM CHESEK

He was the King of the Paperback Book Cover Artists — the Rembrandt of the Paperbacks, according to some. An innovator who set the pace during what’s widely considered a golden age of American illustration — and he did it all from his walk-up studio above Broad Street in Red Bank.

During the years dating from the end of the Second World War to the era of the WIN Button, the late James Avati created hundreds of vivid, powerful cover paintings for novels by Faulkner, Dreiser, O’Hara and many other leading literary lions of the day — as well as for upstarts like J. D. Salinger and Mickey Spillane, whose hardboiled epics were reportedly no favorites of the artist.

Famous for reading every word of every book he was hired to do, Avati was commissioned for dozens of high-profile titles from New American Library and other top publishing houses, and found his smoldering, moody style quickly imitated by his peers. It would have been easy for him to work exclusively with the best available models, but what truly set Avati’s work apart — what gave it that edge of authenticity and heart — was his preference for “real people” subjects; many of them drawn from his circle of friends, relatives and neighbors in and around Red Bank.

Beginning this Friday evening, July 15, those faces that once called out to readers from drugstore bookracks and bus station spinners will be on full-size display, as the Monmouth Museum on the Lincroft campus of Brookdale College hosts an opening reception for The Painting World of James Avati. A sampling from the world’s largest collection of the artist’s sought-after work, it’s a priceless portrait of American realism in words and pictures; a painted diorama of a bygone Red Bank, and a fascinating glimpse into the creative process of a man whose signature work has been described as “the darker side of Norman Rockwell.”

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