It’s not easy to mistake downtown Jersey City for the streets of Chelsea, but on Coles Street, you might catch a glimpse of a storefront filled by nothing but a full-room art exhibit – like you might find in the New York City artist neighborhood.
On exhibit right now is Ausencia Corporal, Spanish for Physical Absence, created by Gallery 58 owner Mario Monroy. It’s a full sensory experience – tactile, olfactory, auditory, and visual.
A bamboo boat with a red sail floats in the middle of an artificial pond. Wooden beams sit in the pool for viewers to cross and get a different vantage point on the room. Against the wall is a TV screen showing a video of the ocean being played backwards against a red hue. The sound of crashing waves permeates the room.
The beams are laid across the water in such a way that the exhibit becomes interactive – if one person wants to move, everyone has to shift positions to accommodate.
“It’s interactive,” said Monroy. “As people stand on the boards or walkways, they can’t really pass, so they have to work together to move around.”
Five hundred people have been through the gallery since the exhibit opened on April 8. Monroy and his partner Orlando Reyes opened the gallery three years ago, feeling that there were very few places to view art in Jersey City. Many exhibition sites are located in spaces designed for other uses, such as cafes or restaurants. Exhibitions are free, often supported by local sponsors. Monroy calls the gallery a labor of love. Ausencia Corporal is one of the first times the owners have displayed their own work, usually showing that of up-and-coming local artists.
“The ideas for a project usually come in one swoop as a whole idea,” said Monroy. “The challenge is to make it work within the space.”
Last week, violinist Valerio Rossi came to the space to play along with the soundtrack of waves crashing, adding a new interactive and even community element to the display.
“He was inspired during the opening and came back. He plays along with the ocean sound,” said Monroy. “Light showed his silhouette against the wall. It was dramatic, like a tempest.”
The next exhibit will be Receiver Series 1, right, wrong, and acceptable, paintings and books by Jesse Wright, on display from May 6 until May 31.
Gallery 58 is located at 58 Coles St, Jersey City. The gallery is opened Wednesday to Sunday, 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. Ausencia Corporal will be on display until May 11. For information, call Mario at (917) 349-1693 or Orlando at (917) 349-4235.