New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

For great Jersey music and much more, tune into our radio station at

"False Indigo" at Hoboken's Proto Gallery

By Brent Johnson,

originally published: 06/21/2017

"False Indigo" at Hoboken's Proto Gallery

These aren’t the kind of floral paintings you’ll find hanging in the lobby of most motels or for sale at your local department store.

At first glance, you might not even realize that some of the Rob Ventura pieces that currently line the walls at Proto Gallery in Hoboken depict flowers at all. They’re filled with abstract shapes, wild brushstrokes and deep, dark hues of red, orange, purple and black.

Plus, they all share something unusual: Each painting is named after a poisonous flower.

Welcome to “False Indigo,” a show of 17 oil-on-canvas paintings by Ventura, a 28-year-old artist who has been living and working in Hoboken for the last four years. It’s his first solo exhibition at Proto, a contemporary art gallery located in the city’s old Neumann Leather building.

Ventura calls himself an abstract painter, but for this exhibit — which is free and runs through July 29 — he wanted “some kind of subject matter to the paintings.”


“Flowers are part of the natural world,” he explains. “But I thought flowers and florals are pretty abstract. They are reminiscent of the gestures of abstract painting.”

And why did he pick toxic ones?

“It sounds sexier,” Ventura says with a smile. “They’re flowers, but they’re also kind of punk rock. They’re a little grungy. They’ve got some edge to them.”

Ventura was raised in Berkeley Heights but did undergrad work at Boston College. Originally, his focus was on music, playing bass guitar in rock and funk bands. But there was a problem.

“It was really hard to play music on campus,” he recalls. “It was loud and there wasn’t really a lot of practice space.”

So Ventura added an arts major and eventually received a master’s degree in art from Boston University.


“I liked the fact that art was more self-directed,” he says. “I could do it on my own. I didn’t have to get together a group of people to play.”

Since then, Ventura has been active in the New York art scene and has had solo shows in other places, such as one in Jersey City last summer.

But his home base is Proto, where he has rented studio space the last few years.

Sculptor Nick De Pirro opened the gallery four years ago in a large brick building that once housed the Neumann Leather factory in downtown Hoboken. The goal was to bring a New York-styled commercial gallery to the other side of the Hudson River.

“I thought it would be nice to have this kind of thing on the Jersey side but still be linked to New York,” De Pirro remembers. “Sort of create an orbit for Jersey artists.”

Originally, the gallery hosted only group exhibitions. But in recent months, Proto has added solo shows to the mix. Ventura’s is the third.

De Pirro says “False Indigo” is a vehicle for Ventura’s “really aggressive painting style.”

Rob Ventura_English Bluebell

“The paint has a lot of action,” De Pirro says. “And what I like about the show is: You have big colorful canvasses that also have a conceptual framework. It’s not just the color. It’s not just a canvas. He has an underlying intelligence to it that keeps me interested in it.”

Ventura also used an interesting process to craft the paintings in the show. First, Ventura explains, he took images from Vincent Van Gogh’s series of flower paintings and put them into Photoshop, “digitally manipulating them to create a new composition.” He then projected the images onto his canvases and painted over the projections.

“It hard to see the reference,” Ventura says of the Van Gogh influence. “They kind of become their own thing.”

All of it stems from Ventura’s love of pop art — including artists like Roy Lichtenstein, who often appropriated the work of comic books and other artists to create new pieces.

“I like working with preexisting imagery,” Ventura says. “It’s kind of a jump-off point.”

Once the paintings were done, Ventura looked through images of poisonous flowers and assigned the pieces titles based on the flowers they most resembled.


“False Indigo,” the show’s title painting — and one of the larger pieces on display — is named after the Baptisia australias, a toxic blue-purple flower found in the Midwest that was once used by Native Americans and Europeans to dye clothes. Hence its nickname, “false indigo.”

The exhibit is also a showcase for a new branch of Ventura’s catalogue: sculpture. There are seven ceramic pieces in the middle of the room — jagged works that look almost like coral.

They are the first sculptural work Ventura has done since his college undergrad days.

“I was kind of experimenting,” he says. “I wasn’t planning on putting ceramics into the show. But I made a couple of pieces and I really liked them. They’re nice complements to the paintings.”

The ceramics also have a theme — but not flowers. Each sculpture is named after a fossil.

larger“I think they have a kind of prehistoric vibe — an evolutionary vibe,” Ventura explains.

While “False Indigo” takes up Proto’s first floor, the second floor is currently home to “Soft Reboot,” an exhibit Ventura curated featuring pieces from 25 artists who have been involved with the gallery over its first four years.

Proto is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. It’s by appointment only on weekdays.

“We want to continue to do group shows upstairs whenever we can,” says De Pirro, the gallery’s owner. “We want that community to orbit around our space. It’s bringing back the history of the last four years in this building.”

Adds Ventura: “We have a really good active crew of young, emerging artists. It’s kind of the real deal.”

About the author: Brent Johnson is a pop-culture-obsessed writer from East Brunswick, N.J. He's currently a reporter for The Star-Ledger of Newark. Before that, he was a longtime entertainment and music columnist for The Trenton Times. His work has also been published by Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated On Campus and Night & Day Magazine. His favorite musical artists: Elvis Costello, Billy Joel, The Smiths, Roxy Music, Dave Matthews Band, The Beatles, Blur, Squeeze, The Kinks. When he's not writing, Brent is the lead singer in alt-rock band The Clydes

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

Rider University Art Gallery presents Mel Leipzig: Octogenarian
(LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ) -- The Rider University Art Gallery will present an exhibit of works by Mel Leipzig, titled Mel Leipzig: Octogenarian Wednesday September 26 through Friday, October 26.  Leipzig, born in Brooklyn in 1935, resides in Trenton, NJ.
Monroe Township Presents Artrageous
(MONROE TOWNSHIP, NJ) -- The Monroe Township High School Performing Arts Center presents Artrageous on Sunday, November 11th at 4:00pm. Artrageous is a unique interactive arts performance that incorporates many different art forms on the same stage. The audience experiences live speed painting art, music, dance, and life-sized puppetry.  
"Trumpets, Weird and Wonderful" opens at the Morris Museum October 7
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The Morris Museum in partnership with the National Music Museum (Vermillion, South Dakota) presents the exhibit Trumpets, Weird and Wonderful: Treasures from the National Music Museum — 44 fascinating instruments from five continents, on view at the Morris Museum from October 7 to March 17, 2019. Dating from the late 17th to the late 20th centuries, the instruments are on loan from the National Music Museum’s Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection of Brass Instruments, and most of them have never been on public exhibit.
JCTC's Connection Series Explores How We Do & Don’t Connect in Today’s World
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Technology connects people all over the world, yet why do we so often seem disconnected to our communities, families and each other? Jersey City Theater Center (JCTC) launches its 2018/2019 season with Connection, a series of visual arts, theater, dance and readings that explores the truly modern conflict of pervasive isolation in an era of hyper-communication.
GlassRoots Honors The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey & Laureen Meehan at Annual Gala
​(NEWARK, NJ) -- GlassRoots announced that its annual Gala and Auction, this year entitled Glowing + Growing will be held on October 18, 2018, and will celebrate the nonprofit's 17 years of impact by paying tribute to the deep connections among organizations invested in arts education by honoring Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and Lauren Meehan of the Newark Arts Education Roundtable.

Basking Ridge Resident Returns to Matheny to Help Assist in Strategic Planning for 'This Amazing Place'
When Ellen Lambert was director of development at the Matheny School and Hospital in Peapack, NJ, from 1993 to 1995, one of her major achievements was the formation of a fundraising plan for what would eventually become the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center. The concept of Matheny's Arts Access Program  -- which enables people with disabilities to create art, assisted by professional artist-facilitators  -- was emerging in '93, and the arts center was eventually built in 2000.
City Without Walls and Aljira To Shine At Newark Arts Festival
Two long-running art spaces, City Without Walls (“cWOW”) and Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art (“Aljira”), will house pop-up exhibits during the Newark Arts Festival, October 4-7, 2018.  Though both spaces are now in a period of transition, through the support of Newark Arts, they will activate with fresh exhibits during Newark’s citywide annual festival of the arts. 
The Healing Power of Art
Entering the office to see a neurologist can be a terrifying experience.  I know because I’ve had to do it for years.  Thankfully, when I see my doctor I am surrounded by his photographs on the walls. It’s more than a hobby for Dr. Noah Gilson, it’s a lifelong passion.
What Is The Artist’s Role In Gentrification?
About a year ago, I attended a local community meeting here in Newark for citizens concerned about the changing face of the city. You see, Brick City, after 50 years of neglect, economic disenfranchisement, and disproportionate criticism fueled by racism, xenophobia and class discrimination, is going through a revitalization. Or a “renaissance” if you’re the poetic type.
Fossils And Boomers At Morris Museum
You won’t find many places where Billy Joel and Erin Brokovich rub shoulders with ancient shark teeth and fossilized raindrops. But such is life — for at least the next few weeks — at the Morris Museum in Morristown, where you can take two very different trips through American history in two separate exhibits.

Event calendar
Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018


Cafe Tacvba with special guest Ruen Brothers – Niu Gueis Tour 2018 @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 8:00pm

Seuls en Scene French Theater Festival - "Gonzo Conference" @ Donald G. Drapkin Studio at Lewis Arts complex, Princeton - 8:00pm

Joan Baez @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Record Club: Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon @ Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 7:30pm


West End Festival of the Arts- Children's Storytelling @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 4:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.