Local art curator holds hometown exhibit

The works of four West New York artists are on display at a local café

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Bruce Soffer curated the exhibit after contacting artists he'd met in town.
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"Serenity I" and "Serenity II" by Karen Costana
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Karen Costana explores abstract concepts in addition to her portraiture.
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A Karen Costana abstract.
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Marcin Szprengeil's mixed-medis works involved interaction between the human form and geometry.
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A collage by Marcin Szprengeil
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Pieces by Joshua Washington (top right) and Marcin Szprengeil
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Portrait by Gene Coll
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Gene Coll sought out expressive characters in his portraiture.
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Coll sought out fashion choices and backdrops that captured part of an era.
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This woman owned a clothing boutique called Revenge..
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Joshua Washington incorporated his father's sport coats into his pieces.
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  1 / 12 
Bruce Soffer curated the exhibit after contacting artists he'd met in town.
  2 / 12 
"Serenity I" and "Serenity II" by Karen Costana
  3 / 12 
Karen Costana explores abstract concepts in addition to her portraiture.
  4 / 12 
A Karen Costana abstract.
  5 / 12 
Marcin Szprengeil's mixed-medis works involved interaction between the human form and geometry.
  6 / 12 
A collage by Marcin Szprengeil
  7 / 12 
Pieces by Joshua Washington (top right) and Marcin Szprengeil
  8 / 12 
Portrait by Gene Coll
  9 / 12 
Gene Coll sought out expressive characters in his portraiture.
  10 / 12 
Coll sought out fashion choices and backdrops that captured part of an era.
  11 / 12 
This woman owned a clothing boutique called Revenge..
  12 / 12 
Joshua Washington incorporated his father's sport coats into his pieces.

Bruce Soffer, an art curator, photographer, and 12-year West New York resident, has arranged an art exhibit at Parker, a local café, representing four aspiring artists who live in West New York. His goal was to invigorate a movement of local artists seeking local inspiration. Soffer had run into the featured artists by chance at various spots in town.

“People aren’t really aware of the community of artists that live right in town with them” – Bruce Soffer

The exhibit, “Art’s Endless Odyssey,” reflects the timeless human connection to visual arts. Soffer said the works embody an infinite continuum as well as the historic divide between representational and abstract art.

Soffer, who has curated exhibits throughout Manhattan, wanted to fill a void he saw in his hometown.

“It’s hard to find places in the area where people can come into a casual setting and take a look at some works by people so close to them and decide, ‘that’s something I might want to do,’ or ‘I could do something like that,” Soffer said.

Artists and curator hope the exhibit will inspire others to use their creative powers.

“On a social level, people don’t really engage in visual arts much beyond what’s being sold to them on a mass, commercial level,” Soffer said. “People aren’t really aware of the community of artists that live right in town with them.”

About the art

Soffer said that artist Joshua Washington has created something deeply personal, embedding his father’s sport coats into the work, a departure from his usual style of acrylic painting. “I sensed a willingness to expand his boundaries, which takes confidence, exploration, and boldness,” Soffer said. “I know that is not easy; he deserves respect for that.”

“Karen Castaño refers to facial shapes in portraits by Picasso,” Soffer said. “Her human-like forms, which lack facial features, create universality,  as well as its opposite, ‘the other.'” Costana is a jewelry designer and an artist.

Gene Coll shoots photos of people he’d befriended between 1970-1990 in the East Village, Soho, and neighboring areas. Coll’s photos have been featured in Time Out magazine, The Village Voice, Women’s Wear Daily, and Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine.

“He mostly dealt with raw environmental portraits, with a backdrop which really gives a sense of the time,” Soffer said. “He chose outsiders who pushed boundaries of expression in their fashion. What really appealed to me was how well he captured that time period, with no idea of what kind of relevance these portraits would hold in the future. Some of these shots are over 40 years old.”

Not-so-local roots

Marcin Szprengeil’s works include drawings, collages, and wooden heat etchings. The works combine portraiture and highly detailed geometric designs. He was raised in Gdansk, Poland, as Soviet troops were leaving the country. “His perspective on beauty derives from the decaying architecture and life of Communist East Europe,” Soffer said.

“He employs an extremely disciplined attention to detail and really fixes on geometry in all of his works.” Soffer added. “They suggest the potential for human achievement and the complexity within us. Much of his work appears to be rendered with the certainty of the digital world.”

The exhibit will run until Jan. 12. A closing party open to the public is in the works. Parker is at 6504 Park Ave., West New York, (201) 766-9022.