Karl and Helen Burger Gallery
Photographs by Ricardo Barros
September 4 - October 31, 2008
STONE SCULPTURE IN NEW JERSEY
Outdoor Installation by:
Robert T. Cooke
Constantin Cotty Nazarie
August 2008 - July 2009
Kean University is pleased to host Stone Sculpture in New Jersey, an exhibition featuring the work of six talented New Jersey sculptors who work in stone: Ayami Aoyama, Robert T. Cooke, Harry Gordon, William A. Happel, Constantin Cotty Nazarie, and Christoph Spath. For an entire year, from August 2008 through August 2009, large granite and marble works grace our outdoor campus extending the reach of the gallery and exhibition program. The glue that holds this project together is not only the obvious, a common natural material and the large scale of artwork, but a web of coincidences and interconnections. These relationships demonstrate the complexity of influences that have created this wonderful exhibition and have come out of a region that is very fertile for artists working in stone.
Kean University is clearly part of this web of coincidences. Happel and Cooke are both Kean University alumni. Cooke went on to teach at Rutgers University where he was the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) thesis advisor to Gordon. Gordon later worked for the Johnson Atelier, as did Spath and Nazarie. When Kean University built the new CAS building in 2003, a huge old willow tree needed to be removed from the building site. Keeping with the environmental and green standards employed in the design, the architects called on Gordon to make a site specific sculpture using the gigantic tree trunks of the fated willow. This sculpture is now a permanent installation in the outdoor courtyard, visible from the front doors of the new CAS Art Gallery.
Although the New York art-world often casts an irritating shadow on even the most talented artists working in New Jersey, when it comes to large-scale stone art studios, Manhattan cannot compete. It is worth noting that by nature, large-scale stone requires such huge space and gigantic equipment that only the super privileged could even dream of doing it in an urban settings. However, beyond the Hudson River, artists have found space and equipment and inspiration to pursue their work in stone.
In New Jersey, the Johnson Atelier and Grounds for Sculpture are remarkable world-class facilities, physically located next to one another, but formally independent organizations. Both were founded by sculptor J. Seward Johnson, Jr. The Johnson Atelier was the catalyst for a sculpture community in the Princeton/Hamilton, New Jersey area. At its peak in the early 90s, eighty sculptors worked there as apprentices, administrators, technicians, faculty members or maintenance workers. Many large-scale sculptures were commissioned by the Johnson Atelier giving a broad spectrum of artists, some unknown, and others very famous, a great opportunity to materialize their ideas in bronze, steel and other materials. The Johnson Atelier continues to maintain a powerful influence in the world of sculpture. Grounds for Sculpture, which opened in 1992 on the land of the old New Jersey Fairgrounds, is an outstanding facility that features a permanent collection of large-scale sculpture and changing indoor gallery exhibitions. Anyone with an interest in sculpture must plan a leisurely day trip to this fantastic outdoor museum. There you can see great works by artists such as George Segal, Isaac Whitkin, and Kiki Smith.
Walking across the street one finds the Digital Stone Project, an amazing fabrication facility. In fact it is the only place in the eastern United States where there are huge high-tech state of the art machines that can be programmed to turn a twenty-ton piece of granite into any shape you would like. If an artist wants a stone hamburger the size of a bus-stop, it can be done at the Digital Stone Project.
All of this activity and opportunity has attracted many artists from far beyond the New Jersey region. Participating in this exhibition, Nazarie came from Romania via Italy, and Aoyama came from Japan to learn and create in this rich environment for sculptors. Aoyama is now a permanent resident in the United States, has a growing family, and makes her large stone sculpture in New Jersey. Presently she also works for Spath at the Digital Stone Project.
The Stone Sculpture in New Jersey exhibition would not have happened as it did without our guest curator, Ricardo Barros, author of FACING SCULPTURE: A Portfolio of Portraits, Sculpture and Related Ideas. This book features a comprehensive series of extraordinary black and white photographs investigating an intimate and dramatic profile of sculptors. Forty of these photographs are on display concurrently at Kean University in the CAS Art Gallery from September 4 through October 31, 2008. We are grateful for Barros’s insight and ability to bring together these talented artists who have generously loaned their large-scale stone sculptures to Kean University.
Director of University Galleries
Ricardo Barros, 1996
For more information, please visit the artist's website: