ARCHIVE: Up at McKay’s, a Spraypaint Soiree

seesharpEven we most jaded veterans of the wine-’n-cheese receptions circuit can vouch that Art is supposed to thrive on the element of surprise. So you can imagine our surprise when we got the message that this week’s big opening event at Red Bank’sMcKay Imaging Gallery would be inaugurating an exhibit not of the photographic arts, but of a cartoon-infused, street-inspired, spraycan-wielding painter.

This is shocking news, because if you know the husband/wife tagteam of Robert and Elisabeth McKay, then you know that they’ve been almost double-handedly responsible for a surge of local interest in photography as fine art. And if you’d only hired them to shoot your wedding instead of relying upon your brother-in-law, well…let’s just say those family get-togethers would be a lot less awkward.

Bob and Liz have led by example, via their work in the fields of portraiture, fashion and commercial imagery. Then they followed through by opening their walk-up studio space at 12 Monmouth Street as a vehicle for elevating photographers to the sort of status already enjoyed by the painters, sculptors and illustrators who feature regularly in the local galleries.

We’ve said it before, but the McKays are as passionate in their advocacy of the photographer’s art as they are committed to their craft. But beginning with an opening reception this Friday night, the walls of the gallery will be trading in the Canon for the Can o’ Krylon, as they host Eyes See Stars, a solo show starring theWhat-A-Cartoon creations of Monmouth County’s own Doug Z.

catsAs the McKays explain, this is their third “Breaking Away” exhibit at the gallery — an installation which breaks from the gallery’s mission statement of focusing upon the many manifestations and permutations of the captured image, opening up their already big worldview to take in some skewed views from such artists as the lateJohn Kochansky, for whom a memorial exhibit was mounted in the summer of 2006.

For this installation, the Wall Township artist known only by the tag Doug Z will be bringing in a collection of his patented “spraypaint surrealiZm;” eye-popping, mad-lab creations that trace their origins to the city graffiti and “random psychedelic experiences” that inspired him. His paintings, which have been seen at galleries in NYC, Philly and throughout Europe, use “formulas for patterns and stencil combinations merged with compositional and spiritual theories” to make pictures that evoke everything from Escher’s symmetries and Rauschenberg’s collage, toShepard Fairey’s stenciled Andre the Giant faces.

Call him the Renoir of Rustoleum; the Krylon Klimt — but just try to be there at McKay’s this Friday between the hours of 7 and 10pm. Doug Z will be there too; as will Eatontown’s “underground guitar genius” Phred Morris, who will provide “musical atmospherics” to accompany the visuals. It promises to be a fine party; packed with cards ‘n characters.