A Gallery with True Grit
It isn’t difficult to find great art in New Jersey. Galleries are popping up all over the place, and even the common coffee shop has started promoting local artists. This, however, is only scratching the surface of the art scene. With a little digging — not too much since it’s fairly well promoted — you’ll hit an art space with true grit. Tucked away in a warehouse cache on Brighton Ave. in Passaic is The Red Door Gallery.
Driving up to the complex, a security guard will tell you how to find the gallery, though it is still easy to get lost among the letter-labeled brick buildings. Trains whistle by and large trucks are scattered around the parking lot of the only warehouse with lights on; this, aside from a small unlit sign above the door, is the only way to know you’ve arrived. Walk up the two small flights of stairs, and you’ll find yourself inside a surprisingly large space.
This particular night was Red Door’s Halloween art showcase featuring 15 different artists, including the short film Season in Hell by Elliot Passantino, projected on the gallery’s only empty wall. Michael Foggio, the artist with work closest to the entrance, was especially enthusiastic about the space. “It’s a cool venue,” he says, excited by the honesty of the art within. He explained that most of his work ends up in predominantly mainstream galleries surrounded by paintings of ocean landscapes and woodland cottages.
For him, an artist who paints women in bondage alongside butterflies and Buddha, this is “underground” and “real.” And his enthusiasm is not overdrawn; walking through, every artist represented a different approach to art, some using mostly acrylic on canvas (which does not discredit the impressiveness of the work), while others displayed fantasy-styled painted photographs, mixed media, expanded comic panels, and sculpture.
Ozzie Rodriguez, an artist who hung panels from One Night on Halloween Street, has been showing his art at Red Door for a while. So, too, has Tom Shelton from What The Folk art, and Rob Talo – a resident of Biago’s Tattoo Gallery in Denville. However, some artists like Mochi, Paul Manzella, and Foggio are completely new to the warehouse.
The Red Door Gallery’s owner, Patrick Barile, was somewhat hidden behind the drink bar, adjacent to what he says will soon become six studio spaces available for artists to rent, two of which are already taken, pending the completion of some drywall work. Aileen Sanchez, Harry Good, and Rob Talo compose the rest of the gallery’s staff, though the operation seems dynamically connected to the community, with the artists providing as much promotion as the staff itself. Patrick was somewhat disappointed in the event’s turnout of about 50 people, knowing that the space has been host to over 100 in the past. But he remains excited for the upcoming “Anti-Violence Art Show,” touted to be 10 of the best local urban artists creating art through their life experiences to promote that there are outlets other than violence.”
Currently, the gallery is only open for shows and is available to those artists who rent out studio space, but Patrick feels that, in time, he’ll be able to keep the space open during the day for the public to wander in, allowing more life into the gallery, providing more exposure for the art within. That, however, will depend on the community to appreciate a gallery with true grit.