Excuse me, MAM?

The Montclair Art Museum is little gem–nearing it’s 100th anniversary–that focuses on American and Native American art. It’s on the small side, but that doesn’t mean it can’t pack a punch. Every time I check, the Montclair Art Museum always has a unique collection of exhibits gracing its walls.

Itching to up my weekend art intake, I headed over to MAM to check out the current shows. Walking up to the entrance, a wonderful, contemporary sculpture by Tom Nussbaum, called “Listen,” grabbed my attention. With one ear turned to the ground, a large head cradles a childlike figure in its other ear. While one face is full of serenity, the other, uncertain, holds the gaze of the large figure for guidance.

Going in from the downstairs entrance, the first images you see are from the students participating in the Scholastics Art & Writing Awards. There’s an excellent range of mediums, and the student work is inspiring and impressive. Both in terms of technical skill and creativity, it’s heartening to see the talent that these young artists showcase. In fact, one of the youngest ages I saw in the lineup was 13 years old. How cool!

In the main galleries, there are currently three special exhibitions: The New Spirit: American Art in the Armory Show, 1913, Oscar Bluemner’s America: Picturing Paterson, NJ, and Patterns, Systems, Structures: Abstraction in American Art.

My favorite was Oscar Bluemner’s America, a collection of sketches by the artist from all around Paterson, NJ. He created these sketches at the height of Paterson’s industrialism and on the brink of Paterson silk strike in 1913. The sketches are vibrant, simplistic, and capture the changing landscape of an increasingly industrial region and growing social unrest among the working class neighborhoods. Scattered throughout the exhibit are historical images of Paterson, including posters from the strike.


There were also some leftovers from the fascinating exhibit by Saya Woolfalk, The Empathetics. Spawned from a fictional myth about a group of women who “gradually morph from humans into plants,” The Empathetics is an exploration of culture and legend. The show is set up in a manner that’s similar to how an anthropological museum would display artifacts, though the artifacts here seem somewhat absurd: skeletal type figures covered in glitter, statues with funghi growing from them, and elaborate, psychedelic costumes.

The diversity of the shows at MAM is truly impressive. It ranges anywhere from student artists, to modern American art, to contemporary installations from current artists. The museum also extends beyond just showing art to offering a range of classes at the Yard School of Art.

The Montclair Art Museum is open from Wednesdays to Sundays, Wednesdays through Sundays, Noon – 5 p.m.

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