Perhaps it’s the location: two blocks from the subway and right across the street from a frozen yogurt store. Or maybe it’s because of the crowd it draws: interesting people from all over New York who genuinely love art. Whatever the reason, Jack the Pelican remains my favorite gallery in Williamsburg.
To me, its appeal is simple. Tucked humbly away from the prying eyes of Bedford Avenue shoppers, its Driggs Avenue and North 9th Street entranceway is pleasantly unassuming. I noticed this when I first visited Jack almost a year ago and love this quality still! It makes every show a surprise that unfolds as you walk through its many compartment-like rooms.
One room, for example, that is always dark and has a sitting area and a television, lends itself to more intimate conversations about the exhibits that give the gallery the feel of a grandiose loft party in Soho– the kind of party I’ve never been to but has been replicated many times on shows like “Gossip Girl” about Manhattan’s elite upper class. I hate that show. (Actually, I watch it every Monday like clockwork. I’m addicted. I’m a “Gossip Girl” fanatic.)
This Friday’s opening at Jack the Pelican was, as usual, very well put together and featured some very interesting artists. Gallery one’s show “WORE” featured painters Heather Morgan and Ben E. Ward. The contrasting works of these two artists made the show very interesting. Morgan’s paintings were of what the gallery called “neurotic/erotic contemporary hipster girls.” They were portraits of women scantily clothed and positioned in angular poses that exaggerated the rawness of their bodies. Some of the women were extremely thin and bony. Other women had folds and folds of skin which hung loosely from their stomachs.
Morgan’s exaggerated forms went well with Ben E. Ward’s confederate zombie paintings, which played with faces that were illuminated in an almost oppressive manner. My friends Kristen Thompson and Sara Aranoff, who I bumped into accidentally at the show, agreed that the works complemented each other, though Sara liked Ward’s paintings the most.
“You see the soldiers but you don’t know where the light is coming from,” said Sara. “They’re obviously pieces about death but the illumination makes the soldiers seem warmer even though death is a dark thing.”
Gallery two housed “Altered States,” an exhibit of artists and college friends Joe Meiser and Adrian Hatfield. Unlike Sara, Kristen was most drawn to Meiser’s sculptures, which touched on the theme of spirituality.
“There’s a lot of really profound art here tonight, but yours is the only art I’d want to look at everyday,” Kristen told Meiser.
“Thank you,” he said, then said he’d be happy to sell her a piece.
“It’s probably too expensive,” said Kristen laughing.
When I pulled Meiser aside to talk, he told me that he met Hatfield at Ohio University, where they were both students, and that this was their first show in New York. Hatfield, whom I spoke with earlier, said that when they met they realized that their art had a lot of conceptual overlap.
“We’re looking at things from different angles, but we both explore the limits and extremes of human experience,” said Hatfield, whose works were mostly paintings. Hatfield said he focuses on the scientific side of humanity, while Meiser is more interested in the spiritual side.
“I was brought up in a very religious family. I was raised Evangelical Christian. I was always questioning religion but never found satisfactory answers,” said Meiser. “Now I’m not really a part of any religious institution.”
“WORE” and “Altered States” stays up until June 29. For more information, call 718-782-0183.
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