Detour Gallery premieres first art exhibition of 2017

DETOUR Gallery
Mar 18, 2017 7:19PM

Culture and industry collide in the art of Martin Schapira and Zevi Grunewald, two New Jersey entrepreneurs who craft kinetic abstractions.

This weekend, Detour Gallery is premiering “Zevi G & Martin Schapira,” featuring new paintings, mixed media, and sculptures. The opening reception will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, March 19. This is the first show of 2017 for Detour, which previously hosted Holly Suzanne Rader’s exceptional “Killer Queen” in December.

Schapira and Grunewald both believe in art for art’s sake and derive influence from each other. Their collaborative works convey the absurdity of contemporary existence, evoking the intensity of psychosis through bold color and erratic shapes. This can be seen in their “Ambition Man” series, which depicts abstract figurative forms against expressionist backdrops. The men in this series are constructed out of imagery related to professionalism and success such as cars, business suits, and vices. These pieces perfectly encapsulate the professional and creative drive of the entrepreneurs-turned-artists, who exhibit a steadfast devotion to their work and art.

Martin Schapira & Zevi G: Ambition Man #3, 2016 (Mixed media on canvas coated with resin, 30 x 24 inches)

Martin Schapira & Zevi G: FBI Case #456, 2016 (Mixed Media on canvas 60 x 48 inches)

Collaboration is what first brought the artists together eight years ago. After developing and installing a 20,000-gallon indoor koi pond in a corporate office building, Schapira and Grunewald realized their shared passion for art. They now create and market artworks together on a regular basis, and have sold pieces worldwide.

A native of New York City, Schapira’s expertise ranges from metropolitan fashion to aquarium design. His art exists somewhere in between these two industries, blending glamorous eccentricity with natural beauty.

At a young age, Schapira became the lead buyer of his father’s clothing and footwear outlets. With this position came travel opportunities, and he frequently collaborated with companies and designers in Milan. After several changes in the fashion industry, he realized that aquariums were a niche market. He applied his experience with design, and developed a full-fledged career out of it.

While in his 20s, Schapira became a co-lead designer for Okeanos, a prestigious aquascaping group, where he has worked for the past 11 years. Through this job, he was able to network with bigwigs of the industry, which led to design opportunities.

“Everything in design today has to be about the ‘Wow’ factor,” he said. “It can’t just be nice. It has to grab attention.”

Martin Schapira: Man Up, 2017 (Mixed Media on oak panel 48 x 36 x 5 inches)

His work has been featured in The New York Times and GQ. Additionally, his collaborations with French artist Pierre Huyghe have been shown in the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

At 35, he now resides in Jackson, creating eye-catching mixed media pieces that reflect his professional experiences. For the upcoming exhibition, Schapira contributed works from his “Ego Kills” series, which mixes glamour with decadence. Graffiti-style paint is cascaded against wood backgrounds, much like the work of city street artists. A sense of primitive violence pervades the urban aesthetic, with 3D weaponry such as axes and arrows jutting outward. The goal of this series was to emphasize the toxic nature of its subject.

“If you look back at history and today’s world, in my opinion, ego really is very destructive,” Schapira said. “War, marriages, friendships, relationships or anything, it all relates to ego.”

 Martin Schapira: I Will Respect The Ocean, 2016 (Mixed Media on panel, 48 x 48 inches)

Other works contain similar imagery with different messages. Environmental preservation is a crucial theme in “I Will Respect the Ocean,” a mixed-media work that synthesizes Schapira’s passion and profession. Bright colors and images of aquatic life blend to promote the beauty of nature, and convey a plea for protection. By combining his interests, Schapira also stresses the importance of originality in self-expression.

“I see a lot of inspiration from all different types of art, but I try not to copy anything that I see anywhere else,” he said. “There is no reason to steal.”

Zevi Grunewald displays a more animated eccentricity in his creations. His 3D-printed sculptures are based on a series of characters he developed over the past two years. These figures inhabit a shared universe, and possess individual personalities based on physical traits.

Zevi G: G Stack, 2016 (Painted resin, 24 inches) Edition 3 of 10

Zevi G: The Ruler, 2016 (Painted resin, 24 inches) Edition 3 of 10

The artist was born in Lakewood, but spent years of his childhood between the U.S. and Israel with his immigrant parents. He found a way to transcend the hardships of those years, eventually emerging as a successful entrepreneur in the concrete industry. Grunewald now owns and runs his own masonry company, Perfect Concrete Construction, which operates throughout the tri-state area.

To complement his trade, Grunewald began sketching and painting in 2015. What started as a form of self-fulfillment quickly grew into a passion for the 32-year-old artist.

“I turn people’s designs into reality for a living,” he said. “So now, instead of making someone else’s blueprint into real life, I’m bringing my characters to life.”

Zevi G: Jet Set, 2016 (Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches)

 Zevi G: Untitled, 2015 (Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 inches)

Despite a lack of experience, he established an individual style through his acrylic paintings on canvas. These works, like his sculptures, are figurative and animated. Colorful characters are set to black backdrops, allowing the subjects to grab viewers’ attention.

“I never watched or read any cartoons as a kid, and I also grew up without a TV,” he said. “For me, I felt it was easier to create from my own imagination.”

Without any formal training, Grunewald owes nothing to outside influences. Rather, his fully realized vision is all his own, a reaction to his individual experiences with art, history and pop culture. The artist practices altruism through his work, donating 20 percent of all profits to charity.

“I’ve made a lot of pieces with hearts because I believe in spreading love, and sharing the message of love,” he said. “I’ve been through my fair share in life, so if at any point there’s a possibility to share a positive message, that is something I am happy to do.”

Detour Gallery plans to premiere new art exhibitions every five weeks. To keep up with them, follow @detourgallery on Instagram and Twitter.

- Article by Billy Anania @billyanania

Asbury Park Press

DETOUR Gallery