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A Borderless Exhibit at the Noyes Galleries


By Christopher Benincasa, JerseyArts.com

originally published: 03/14/2021

A Borderless Exhibit at the Noyes Galleries

Right now, 21 artists from 14 countries are being featured in a new exhibition at the Noyes Galleries at Kramer Hall in Hammonton. “Borderless: Digital Practices in Changing Times” can be viewed in person at Kramer Hall and online through May 9, 2021. We recently spoke with six of the artists: Khaled Hafez from Cairo, Egypt, Max de Esteban from Barcelona, Spain, Seet Van Hout and Uwe Poth from Nijmegen, Netherlands, and curators Suzanne Reese Horvitz and Robert Roesch from Philadelphia – whose studio is in the South Jersey Pinelands – about overcoming the obstacles thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to you all for joining us from all these different places and time zones. So, the first thing I wanted to talk about was something that Suzanne emailed me – the friendships between artists across borders, and the friendships that Suzanne and Robert have cultivated over the years. Suzanne, just as a starting off point, could you talk about how this project came to be?

Suzanne Reese Horvitz: Well, when we were in Cairo for the Biennial the summer before last, we met Max de Esteban. Khalid we had known for many years, and he was there, and so was Marwa Adel, another Egyptian artist who's also in the “Borderless” exhibition. Anyhow, there were a lot of artist friends that we connected up with again in Cairo. And one of the artists, Josip Zanki, who is from Croatia, had this idea that we should get together and do an exhibition where we would each travel to each other's country, and have a show in that area, and all sleep on the floor of each other's studios, and just sort of hang out together. We loved the idea, and we put together a group of artists and pitched it to Michael Cagno at the Noyes Museum of Art at Stockton University, and he was all in. We invited artists whose work we love and respect, and we were hoping we would all get together – and that they could all crash at our studio – or go camping in the Pinelands! But then COVID came along.

Max de Esteban (Spain): I want to just to add that, like Sue was saying, it's the friendship, and it's the fun, but I would like to add a second dimension – the fact that we are all working together, sharing our ideas with no sense of competition. I find it fantastic. And I really think that we artists, obviously, we are not in the arts because of the money, because it's very rare to make money. So, that allows us to make things differently. And I think it's a nice sense of communal and social feeling that I think is very important in this particular event.

A Borderless Exhibit at the Noyes Galleries

 

It's been really interesting to see how artists have adapted to the global pandemic – to see artists re-emerge, with whatever tools they have at hand, confined to their homes or studios – to see the new kind of culture that has emerged. Robert, the subtitle of the show is “Digital Practices in Changing Times.” Was all the work in this show produced during the pandemic?



 
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Robert Roesch: I don't think so. I think some of it existed before this. And I think some of it was analog that was transferred into digital for the show. In any case, the result is that everything is digital now. And that’s a theme in the “Borderless” exhibition. It’s the digital part that helps the work be borderless.

 

Uwe and Seet, you two live and work together. Could you talk about how the pandemic and lockdown conditions have affected your practice?

Uwe Poth (Netherlands): I'm originally born in Germany, but I’ve lived in Holland for 40 years, where I work as an artist – drawings, paintings, sculpture, if necessary, making installations or projects, which includes photography. But it's not my priority to work digitally – it's more of a necessity. I’ve been working on an exhibition about Albrecht Durer, who was, 500 years ago, starting his famous journey through the Netherlands. I used statements from Durer from when he came back from Italy and said, "I'm now a master of colors.” And now, ever since the pandemic began, I’ve been working on a series I call “The Confession of Color.” I trust in the phenomenon of the material, and the necessity to produce. So, for me, this pandemic has something new to offer. It's not only negative things.

A Borderless Exhibit at the Noyes Galleries

And, Seet, how has the lockdown affected your work?

Seet Van Hout (Netherlands): I'm a painter, and I make embroideries – mostly huge, textile installations about memory. Now, in this lockdown period, every day I make a painting – a small painting. Every day I have to, from a blank canvas, make a painting. I started the first day of the lockdown to make a painting, and it gave me something to hold on to. And I have discovered so many new things in my work. But, on the other hand, I have parents who are 90 years old, and that is of course a huge sorrow. But in the end, this is a special period. A special time for everything.



A Borderless Exhibit at the Noyes Galleries

Max, you’re in Barcelona. How has your experience of the pandemic and lockdown been? How have things changed for you?



 
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Max de Esteban (Spain): Okay. The first thing I have to say is that I am hating the situation because I don't feel like myself as a spiritual artist. My work is in an uncommon position that basically tries to blend the artistic language with a more scientific technical language. And that means talking to people, being with people. Some of them can be artists that help in the production of the pieces. Some are scientists or philosophers. So, for me, because of the nature of my work, I have not been extremely productive. I'm hating it.

A Borderless Exhibit at the Noyes Galleries

Robert and Suzanne, you two have led really colorful, international lives, and you have served as cultural advisors at United States embassies. Could you unpack that whole situation for us a little bit?

Robert Roesch: Sure. Sue had a friend who was working in the State Department as a facilitator. And the first job we got was in Burma, 27 years ago. So, they were discussing sending Sue because she had a cooperative gallery, which she founded and ran. And while they were doing that, they came across a chair I had built that was in the Smithsonian. It was part of a collection of urban folk art, believe it or not. Long story short, they realized we were a couple, and we both got hired for the job, and we did good. We got great marks, and that's how it started.

Suzanne Reese Horvitz: The idea, 27 years ago, was that Burma was somehow allowing artists to have little galleries in their garages, or outside in their yards. The galleries were thriving, and the government was leaving them alone. So, our State Department thought, well, let's try to encourage this. Let's bring some people around to talk about how they can sell art, and how you can organize cooperative galleries and things like that. We had a great time, and we've stayed in touch with a lot of those artists all these years. Khaled, you were hired to be our translator.

Khaled Hafez (Egypt): Because the translator didn't show up that day.

Suzanne Reese Horvitz: And we've done a lot of projects together with Khaled since.

Robert Roesch: But I still don't get his first name right. He's my dear friend, and I can't pronounce –

Khaled Hafez (Egypt): You pronounce it very well! Every country I go to, they pronounce my name in a different way. I go to Germany, they call me Kaleb. I go to Turkey, it's Haled with an H.

 

Khaled, tell us about your work.



 
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Khaled Hafez (Egypt): I'm a visual artist. I do painting, and I do video, and I do installation, and I shoot photographs. I'm hatching artworks in my studio all the time, and communicating with my friends all over the world. And I’m really happy to be a part of this exhibition, and this conversation.

A Borderless Exhibit at the Noyes Galleries

Does anybody care to imagine out loud what this pandemic would have been like if there was no connectivity, no internet to allow us to do something like this – to share your work, to have conversations like this?

Robert Roesch: I'd start chopping wood. And collecting horses to do our plowing and… I don't know.

A Borderless Exhibit at the Noyes Galleries

Could you walk us through the “Borderless” exhibition? What kind of experience is it?

Suzanne Reese Horvitz: Well, for people in New Jersey, or who are near New Jersey, the physical show is beautiful. Michael Cagno did an amazing job in terms of the technology – screens all over two galleries, plus some physical prints and other things. So, I would encourage people, if they are able, to physically go into the gallery. If not, the online version is also great.

Max de Esteban (Spain): I haven't been there – being in lockdown in Barcelona – but I've seen the photos and it's a super job. It really looks very cool. Very, very cool, and very intense.

Khaled Hafez (Egypt): This exhibition is one of the silver linings of the pandemic. It’s shown us an alternative way to curate. This show is about communicating. It’s about friendship. And it’s about practice. And I think this will be the future.

 

View “Borderless: Digital Practices in Changing Times” now through May 9 at the Noyes Galleries at Kramer Hall, 30 Front Street, Hammonton, and online at http://noyesmuseum.org/borderless.

A Borderless Exhibit at the Noyes Galleries




About the author: Christopher Benincasa is an Emmy Award-winning arts and culture journalist. He produced content for NJ PBS for a decade before co-founding PCK Media. Christopher currently works as a freelance producer, video editor, writer, and communications specialist for a diverse set of commercial, non-profit, and government clients. His work has been featured on various PBS stations, and in American Abstract Artists Journal, The Structurist, Paterson Literary Review, and JerseyArts.com.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.




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