Industry Marries Art

DAVID SEPULVEDA PHOTONewhallville may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about art galleries. And unless you’ve been in the market for new counter tops or imported Tuscany wood-burning ovens, you most likely have never heard of EleMar Marble and Granite—or, therefore the new Gallery at EleMar.

Located just outside the perimeter of Science Park, abutting the Shelton Avenue corridor at Gibbs Street, the gallery held its inaugural opening last Saturday, featuring Greater New Haven artists Gordon Skinner, Gar Waterman, Frank Bruckmann and Ivan Tirado. Also on display were both modern and cultural African sculptures from the vast collection of importer Steve Loitz and his Shona Gallery, located at the EleMar Gallery warehouse.

The marriage of art with industrial spaces is not unusual. Artists can often be found working and showing in cavernous, vacated structures that have outlived their original intent. EleMar, however, is a fully operational business with some surprising features and amenities.

Having an art gallery on its premises made perfect sense to Branford-based artist and gallery visionary Mark Krueger, who pitched his ideas to EleMar owners Carl and Barbara Harris. They agreed to build the gallery with Krueger as its manager and curator.

As the work of preparing the 2,000-square-foot gallery space progressed, Krueger began lining up select artists whose work he called “emblematic of their commitment to art, not as a hobby or pastime, but as a way of life.” 

Krueger is himself an artist whose primary medium is in great supply at EleMar’s Marble and Granite warehouse, a hangar-sized facility with rows of natural art; magnificent stone specimens created by the forces of nature over many millenia. Krueger’s highly detailed mosaic images are made from the detritus of stone installations he is familiar with from his years as a decorative stone installer. Each stone fragment that he matches to his “cartoon” or blueprint image is hand-shaped through a time-intensive process developed through experimentation. Several finished pieces at the gallery were displayed on free-standing structures and included both representational and nonobjective content.

Krueger’s vision as a gallerist is not restricted to showing and selling art. He said that full-time artists and art entities should not have to rely on government subsidies or the vagueries of a fickle art market for support. Through marketing, networking, and engaging the greater community through education, he posited, a sustainable business model can be fashioned that serves the needs of artist and patron alike. Krueger noted that the flow of interior decorators, architects, builders, and designers that visit the company each day, provides a special interest market that will redound to the artists represented at the gallery.

The Gallery at EleMar was designed with multiple uses in mind, including seminars, education talks, cultural events and activities centered on the gallery and EleMar’s specialty stone business. EleMar owner Carl Harris, who is a wine enthusiast, plans to hold wine tastings and related activities in the spacious areas that are part of the gallery complex.

Featured in Saturday’s gallery opening was the work of Erector Square artist Gordon Skinner, in an exhibit entitled Bread and Circuses. His 23 mixed-media portraits and collages are drawn from several series, but also includes some new work. Skinner connected with Krueger by way of Project StoreFronts after Skinner’s successful “Popup55” installation in downtown New Haven.

Skinner has been blazing an enviable career path as he pushes artistic boundaries often grounded in the work of art masters past and present. He is a keen observer of popular culture and appropriates its themes and imagery liberally.

A consistent thread in much of the artist’s work is the notion of “making the unimportant, important.” In works such as his mixed-media “Peta Paint Gala,” the frame is displayed in reverse, its hanging wire, clips, and masking tape, all functional framing components that are not usually part of an artwork, are given full exposure, testing our perceptions about what is important in the work and in art generally. It is a triumph of the seemingly insignificant, or what Skinner has referred to as a kind of “underdog theory.” 

A broad range of formats and materials are presented in this show, but all works, according to an exhibit broadside, “... continue in Skinner’s artistic vocabulary of exploring the ideas of identity, our perceptions and what we give value to in society.” A short documentary film about Skinner by agent, Bob Albert, can be viewed on Skinner’s website.

Krueger said that a limited number of artists, including those who are part of the inaugural exhibition, will continue to be featured at the gallery with several others added later.

Apropos to Elemar’s stone business, are some of the rock-painting series of artist Frank Bruckmann. The artist’s careful scrutiny of rock facets, fissures and striations are portrayed with convincing painterly modeling that invites touching, at least by the eye, if not the hand.

Taken from several of his nature-inspired sculpture series, New Haven artist Gar Waterman displays, his masterful facility for creating dialogue between surface and form. Surface contours undulate with such graceful, flowing movement, it is sometimes hard to believe they sculpted from the raw, massive stone forms he imports from Italian quarries. Read about Waterman’s recent commission and other work here.

Milford-based Dr. Ivan Tirado is a figurative sculptor “who finds inspiration in the fluidity, dynamism, emotion, and strength of the human body.” He also paints, and teaches drawing, design, basic computer skills, and ESL (English as a second language). Two paintings and several sculptural homages to the human spirit, were on display at Saturday’s opening. The versatile artist has a soft spot for humor and was once a standup comedian.

Thea Buxbaum, who attended the exhibit and is known to many as a driving force behind Westville’s rebirth as an arts community, said that one of the great things about New Haven are the “pockets of creativity in unlikely places.”  The Gallery at Elemar is one of those pockets now open to the public.

For hours and additional information, visit the gallery website.

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posted by: Elinor Slomba on October 1, 2014  3:33pm

Cool!  here is some backstory…

posted by: David Sepulveda on October 1, 2014  5:22pm

Where artist Gordon Skinner is concerned, here is some additional back story, to the back story: