Morris Museum announces two new exhibitions

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Morris Museum announces two new exhibitions
Will Power, 1984. Aerosol, 2021. 13 ½’ x 20’. Image: Sara C. Mozeson.

MORRISTOWN, NJ.- On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey is the first museum exhibition to examine the duality of New Jersey artists whose creative versatility extends from the street to the studio. Although their outdoor murals are more commonly experienced in the “open air" galleries that have cropped up in Jersey City, Newark, Asbury Park, and Trenton, these twelve artists also maintain a successful studio practice, producing works on canvas, paper, and wood, as well as sculpture, video, stickers, stencils, skateboard decks, and fashion. Along with these studio-produced works, eleven of the artists have painted 13-1/2 feet tall x 20 feet wide murals directly on the Morris Museum's gallery walls expressly for this exhibition to capture the scale and site-specific nature of their street art practice. The impact of the streets on the studio is being explored, as the lines between urban art and fine art have become increasingly blurred.

With roots in late 1970’s graffiti, skateboard, and punk subcultures, today’s street art has evolved into a cultural phenomenon with a distinct visual language that has reclaimed public spaces in cities across the globe. Encompassing unique styles and varied techniques, street artists address topics that range from notions of place to cries against injustice. Not only has urban art transformed our visual landscape, it has impacted the cultural expression of our time, including fashion, design, advertising, and the contemporary art canon. While neighboring New York-based street artists continue to receive attention from museums and cultural centers worldwide, those based in New Jersey have been largely overlooked.

On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey is a long overdue homage to the rich talents of these urban artists and their vital contribution to New Jersey’s creative spirit. This exhibition features murals and studio work by Catherine Hart, Clarence Rich, Emilio Florentine, Joe Iurato, Layqa Nuna Yawar, LUV1, Mr Mustart, RH Doaz, RORSHACH, and Will Power, and a special installation of work by Newark-based street art legend Jerry Gant (1961-2018).

This exhibition is guest curated by Lois Stavsky.

Iranian Sister Duo Presents New Video Painting & Installation Work at the Morris Museum

The Morris Museum is also presenting Body Double: The Safarani Sisters featuring the work of identical twin Iranian artists Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani in their first solo museum exhibition. As interdisciplinary artists and collaborators, their creative practice exists at the intersection of visual art, new media art, and performance. The exhibition highlights their studio work, charting a path from their signature “video-paintings”—video overlays of choreographed movement projected onto figurative oil-on-canvas paintings—to new pieces that reflect the fluidity of their outlook. On view are twelve video-paintings, one oil painting, a site-specific installation incorporating augmented reality, and a short film created expressly for this exhibition that documents the artists’ unique creative process.

The exhibition begins with recent work that affirms the Safarani Sisters’ experimentation with video projection and traditional painting to elicit mood and emotion, including Blue Curtain (2017), Remember (2018), Puppet Dance (2019), Puppeteer (2019), Reflection (2019) and Beneath the Breath (2020). These represent scenes from a continuum, a narrative portraying the growth and evolution of a character depicted through this ongoing body work. Seven new works have been created for this exhibition, including two large pieces—Unravelling Ceremony (2021) and Umbilical Cord (2021)—and four smaller works in series—Perpetual Dance, Sanctuary of Her, The Moment of Comprehension, and Rapture of Dance (all 2021) that, when installed together, suggest sequential images from a film strip or, with the video overlay, scenes from a movie, further reinforcing the overarching of narrative themes in the sisters’ work. The new, unifying element in these pieces is the imagery of a red rope, symbolizing both connectivity and boundary.

The red rope becomes a physical presence in the site-specific installation. The walls, floor, and ceiling of this room are painted black, creating a womb-like space, with a circle of red rope suspended from the ceiling and an overlay of augmented reality. Extending their experimentation with digital technology further, the sisters bring the experiential effects of their video-paintings into the real and virtual worlds, blurring the boundaries.

Born in 1990 in Tehran, Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani earned their BFA in Painting from the University of Tehran in 2013. Shortly thereafter they began their collaboration and moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where they earned their MFA in Studio Art from Northeastern University in 2016. Both sisters live and work in Boston.

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