Hob’art Artists Explore Death and Decay in ‘Courting Decadence’ Exhibit at Brennan Courthouse

A little bit of Hoboken is coming to Jersey City in the hob’art cooperative’s upcoming show, “Courting Decadence,” at the Brennan Courthouse.

The show explores the unavoidable cycle of life, death and decay and is curated by artist and cooperative member Willie Baez. While the 10-year-old cooperative is based in Hoboken and recently opened up its own gallery space in the Monroe Center for the Arts, Baez says they are still showing work by their 63 members in different venues around and even outside of Hudson County. Baez says they have previously shown at the courthouse, which actually partially inspired the show’s name.

“When I was first thinking about a concept, I came across the idea of decay and I started playing with words and got ‘Courting Decadence’ — and it happens to be at a courthouse!” he says.

Baez adds that the exhibit called for hob’art’s artists to stretch themselves and explore other media. “It was a project for the artists to kind of challenge them and see if they can do something outside of what they normally do… and it worked; a lot of painters decided to be photographers and come up with interesting photographs.”

He says some of the most interesting interpretations of the theme include pictures of decayed buildings and signs (such as “Cola” by photographer Don Sichler, pictured above) and a work with leaves behind layers of paint by Louise Gale.

One of Baez’s favorites is “True Love,” a morbid — but not grisly — work also by Sichler.

“He’s a phenomenal photographer, always going the extra (mile) to take outstanding photos. He took a picture of a dead bird in the snow and he called it ‘True Love’ because it appears to be two birds…the way he photographed it, it’s in the shape of a heart or two birds kissing,” says Baez. “It doesn’t look that bawdy, but it’s unfortunately a dead bird.”

Baez hopes the exhibit shows Jersey City the great talent of hob’art’s artists, who hail from Hoboken and several other municipalities. He adds that while most view Hoboken and Jersey City as separate art communities, he doesn’t see the NJ arts scene the same way.

“I like to think of it as one large art community. In New York’s art world, you think of Chelsea, but you also have other areas like Dumbo and Williamsburg. I think people in general will flock to Hoboken for our (Artists’ Studio Tour) and then to Jersey City when they have theirs, but some of our artists are all over the place — we’re not all necessarily from Hoboken,” he says. “In New Jersey in particular, because this is such a big state as opposed to Manhattan or even all the boroughs, the art world here is all spread out. Like Morristown, there’s some pretty wild stuff going on there. There are things going on in New Jersey that you don’t even know about, but are big.”

“Courting Decadence” at the Brennan Courthouse, 583 Newark Ave., will feature 19 hob’art cooperative gallery members’ paintings, photographs, mixed media and other works. The exhibit opens Monday, July 9, and will run through July 27, when a reception will be held at 5:30 pm. The gallery is open weekdays from 9 am to 6 pm. For more information, visit the hob’art website.

All photos courtesy of the artists

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.