‘Cut Loose’ and let your hair down at the Pierro Gallery

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — A new group of artists will be on display for the next month at South Orange’s Pierro Gallery. The exhibit, titled “Cut Loose,” features work by artists from South Orange and Maplewood in addition to others from Brooklyn and the New York City area. According to the gallery’s description, the exhibition is “about one’s ability to let go, be free and to let your hair down. It will examine the unique ways art shakes up conventional perceptions.”

Danielle Masters, the show’s curator, said all the pieces featured in the show are made out of components altered to change their intended purpose.

“They manipulate the materials and do something other than what they’re intended for,” Masters told the News-Record at the exhibit’s opening on Sept. 21. “So many times you see that someone made something beautiful out of something else. They use color in different ways and new mediums.”

Masters, who lives in South Orange, also has two pieces featured in the show. Titled “Stand by Me” and “Don’t Leave Me Hanging,” they are made out of dance Lycra, rope, wood and Poly-fil, a soft fiber often used to stuff mattresses. The fabric is a variety of bright neon colors and built in different geometrical shapes, some of which hang from the wall.

“I think it kind of relates to what has been going on in the world,” Masters said. “Everybody belongs is my motto and this represents that, that there’s a place for every person.”

In curating the rest of the show, Masters said she wanted to feature the process of art being made. That’s where the “Cut Loose” title and theme originated.

“I wanted to have a show based on what the artist actually does,” she said. “All of these pieces were put together in different ways.”

For Maplewood artist Andrew Zimmerman, the show was the perfect home for his work. His seven pieces on display were made with wood that was stripped down and cut into shapes that resemble letters of the alphabet, and were then painted with bright colors.

“I’m all about cutting,” Zimmerman told the News-Record at the opening. “I like taking pre-existing things and taking them apart, then putting them back together.”

To create the pieces, Zimmerman picked the colors that he wanted to work with before he decided on the shapes, which he said came to him as he was cutting them.

“I like to use a saw to cut the shapes,” Zimmerman said. “It’s kind of like I’m drawing with the saw. I started with a color and nothing else really in mind. I also wanted to use color because most of the time the work I do is monochromatic, so this was different for me.”

Brooklyn-based artist Jeff Burdian has two different types of pieces on display at the Pierro Gallery, made with very different supplies. One is “Trapper/Keeper Painting,” which is a large wall painting done on canvas with ink and acrylic paint, and the other is a series of newspaper sculptures. “A Sure Thing 1-4” is made out of rolled up copies of the New York Daily News and sealed with beeswax; the newspapers used all have headlines from the Democratic primaries of the 2016 presidential election. Burdian said he started making the newspaper sculptures with the New York Times and has since kept it up, joking that he now places them around his house.

“It plays with preservation and brings them all together,” Burdian told the News-Record at the event. Talking about the canvas, he said that he uses whatever materials he happens to have. “It’s always what I have at hand. I use what’s accessible and the most engaging.”

Like Zimmerman, Burdian’s painting did not come from an initial plan.

“I’ve always had a thing for dinosaurs,” he said of his painting, which brings features one of the prehistoric creatures. “So I just started there. It’s a kind of stream of consciousness; I just start and see where it take me from there.”

Another local artist featured in the exhibit is Raymond Saa, a Maplewood resident and art professor at Drew University. Saa has two collages in the show that are each made out of painted paper. After painting the designs, Saa cut the patterns up and made collages, using a sewing machine to attach the pieces together.

“I build them from the bottom up,” Saa told the News-Record at the event. “I call the individual pieces postcards, and then I run them through a sewing machine to put it together. Each layer has stitching on it that you can only see at the top.”

Saa’s black and white collage is displayed alongside his other piece, which is half monochromatic and half bursting with color. According to Saa, he could have made the pieces of the collage months apart from each other, but decided to put them together in one piece because he liked the contrast.

“It plays with pattern and textile design,” Saa said. “The colors bounce off each other. I was also trying to force patterns together when I was laying them out. It’s playing with color and patterning. The materials are different, but the stacks (of paper) work.”

While not all of the artists featured in “Cut Loose” live in Maplewood or South Orange, Masters thinks it benefits everyone to host artists from all over.

“I like that we’ve mixed it with transplants from New York,” she said. “Art doesn’t change because of where you live. We wanted to bring art to the community.”

Sandy Martiny, the director of cultural affairs at the gallery, agreed with Masters.

“It’s nice to bring the city here,” Martiny told the News-Record at the event. “I like that it reflects local artists and people from outside the area.”

“Cut Loose” will be on display at the Pierro Gallery through Oct. 21. The gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment.

Photos by Amanda Valentovic