By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit February 3, 2009)
We first met “Juicy” Jenn Hampton at The Asbury Lanes — that retro-politan rec-room repository of anything that’s just a bubble off-plumb in American life and lore — where she serves as one of the managers. That is, when she’s not serving up recession-busting Blue Ribbons behind the bar of the club’s cozy atom-age lounge.
Ever since the legendary artist and auto customizer Meldon Von Riper Stultzconvinced the owners of the Camelot-era bowling alley on Fourth Avenue to try something new, ART has played an important part in the evolution of this one-of-a-kind nightspot. Mel imported some “alternAmericana” design elements that worked with the naturally vintage vibe of the neighborhood landmark to create a monument of casual Cold War cool — a zany zen hepster hangout unlike any other; a bomb shelter you’d want to spend a Twilight Zone half-life burrowed within.
The Fellini-meets-Flintstones trip was crystallized in the post-Stultz era, with the visual arts (including film screenings from the wild side of weird) bolstered by features ranging from displays of hand-decorated bowling pins that drew the participation of some hot and hypercurrent talents, to the hot-rod homage and pin-up pastiche of the myriad flyers. To say nothing of the performance art — we know not what else to call it — that regularly graces the center lanes.
So you could imagine our pleasant surprise when it was announced a little more than a year ago that Juicy Jenn would be among the owners of Crybaby Art Gallery, a new two-story space for forward-thinking artstuffs at 717 Cookman Avenue in downtown Asbury. The gallery quickly impressed us as an attitude-steeped alternative to the glorified diner art that defines so many Shore outlets, with its painstakingly curated exhibits spotlighting the works of such local/global creatives as Kirsten Easthope, Sunny Buick, Mitch O’Connell, Bethany Marchman, Kukulaand the poster-art pope known as Porkchop — media-drunk, sugarbuzzed graphomania that pops like the most raucous rock and roll.
Beginning this week, the artspace formerly known as Crybaby is no more. But baby dry your eyes, as Juicy Jenn — in cahoots with new partners Jill Ricci and Michael Walker — has simply rethought and rebranded the enterprise as Parlor Gallery, a resource designed to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of the city’s tightly knit artistic community. It’s a mission that begins in earnest on Saturday evening, when the new Parlor space presents an opening reception for its inaugural show, a little thing they like to call Glamour Bomb.
Speaking to Red Bank oRBit at the neighboring Restaurant Plan B — where she and Porkchop wound up after taking in (and taking screen shots of) The Wrestler at Clearview Cinemas in Ocean — Hampton explained that the transition in ownership warranted a “change and a rebirth…we looked at it like the baby was getting adopted by a new set of parents.”
Asserting that new partner Ricci brings a “more process-oriented” approach to the table, Hampton characterizes the rebranded venture as possessing everything that was unique about the Crybaby gallery, and adding such features as a design resource room with “more mainstream fine art,” a flat file of prints and photos, and the eventual debut of a catalog spotlighting artists indigenous to Asbury Park.
The Juicy One went on to call the exhibit, a group show centered around artists’ various interpretations of the title, “a lighthearted way to welcome the new owners.” It’s well in keeping with a vision that’s being triangulated as “an eclectic mix of genres, with a focus on mixed media, abstract, outsider, erotic, graffiti and pop-influenced work.”
Included in the Glamour Bomb roster will be a mix of returning Crybabys and new caterwaulers, among them Alessandra Exposito, Rebecka Sexton, Brad Hoffer,Niagara and Jill Ricci herself, most recently represented at Red Bank’s now-defunctAsher Neiman Gallery. The public-invited event takes place on February 7 from 7pm to 11pm — special late hours owing to the concurrence of the city’s monthly First Saturday slate of happenings — at the gallery located on the north side of Cookman, between Main and Bond Streets.
With its stated goal encompassing nothing less than “to create the premier destination for the arts in Asbury Park” — next stop, world domination — Parlor Gallery will involve itself as well in endeavors that range from art installation and curating, to interior design and decorative painting. Regular hours for the gallery will be 12 to 7pm Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12 to 9pm Fridays and Saturdays, and Mondays/Tuesdays by appointment. Call (732)869-0606 or visit the new website for more info.