As a New Yorker, we often travel throughout the boroughs by subway. We grunt about delays, the lack of air conditioning on the C train and about the stinky and sticky heat that exists on subway platforms yet it is the only affordable and easy way to get anywhere at any time. Especially as a Brooklynite, sometimes it’s hard to imagine leaving the borough and going to “the city.” However, there is a place outside of New York and another form of transportation that takes New Yorkers there at ease. No, I don’t mean the Amtrak to Long Island and I am not referring to the Metro North trek upstate. Jersey City (yes, in New Jersey) is an easy ride on the clean, air conditioned PATH train and takes you to an array of wonderful places including one that I had the pleasure of recently visiting: Mana Contemporary.
A mecca for artist studios, workshops and exhibition spaces, the former tobacco factory’s 2 million square foot complex allots artists space to play within their mediums and showcase work of all shapes and sizes. Arriving at The Glass Gallery on Sunday morning, the group of writers and art enthusiasts (and Pickle the art dog) joined Artsy in an eye opening exposure to the arts outside of New York City. We were immediately confronted with “Theorem. You Simply Destroy the Image I Always Had of Myself.” Containing a collection of large scaled works ranging from painting, sculpture, installation, video art and photography, the sheer magnitude of the space was outstanding and hosted incredible space to roam and view works of all sizes and from all perspectives. Each artist answered the question “what if” which allowed them to contemplate a world amidst social tensions, allowing for a poetic and transcending experience emanating from each visual response.
Following the Glass Gallery, we walked through the sculptured pathway to the Foundry where master sculpture Ben Keating gave the group a brief walk through of some of the projects he’s working on. From moldings to welded curtain sculptures, Keating’s workshop is his playground. In addition to his own projects, he also uses his foundry to manufacture work for other artists and friends including Julian Schnabel, Tom Otterness and more.
Following the Foundry, we were guided to two incredible spaces. The first was the Gary Lichtenstein Editions Print Studio featuring a light boxes, large mobile tables and a wide-format digital printer, Gary Lichtenstein has focused his work on limited edition works that embody color, light absorption and reflection. He was worked with a number or artists and has opened his space for printers and for workshops. Next door to his print studio is Richard Meier’s Model Museum. A gallery dedicated to the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Meier’s gallery has a model exhibition space, a sculpture exhibition space and a library archive for public view. The intricate details of his models are impeccable and are identical to the large scaled buildings he has designed. Such projects include the Perry Street Towers in New York City, the Smith House and his famous model of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
The day continued with studio visits. Mana Contemporary hosts artists for residencies as well as provide studios to practicing artists. Shuli Sadé (whose work explores technology by manipulating and fracturing urban city photographs), Barnett Suskind (though he began with abstract portraits and figures, his paintings have moved towards abstraction in order to evoke feeling) and Carole Feuerman (hyperrealistic sculptures) all opened up their studios to the group to allow us to dive into their vast visual worlds.
So yes, I give in. Make the effort to go to Jersey City and explore Mana Contemporary. This creative playground is surely something not to miss.
Mana Contemporary is located at 888 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07306. Their hours are Monday through Friday 10am to 5pm with daily tours at 11am and 3pm.