For One Jersey City Gallery, Art is ‘Curious Matter’

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

This historic brownstone in Jersey City houses a special place for art lovers in the know. Nearly a decade ago, building owners and artists Raymond E. Mingst and Arthur Bruso converted their 12-foot by 12-foot parlor into a gallery. Curious Matter was born.

“We were looking for a way to exhibit our work and have a conversation with other artists about contemporary art,” said Bruso.

“Because this is a tiny building, the stairs are actually in the center. So, you walk up our front steps, and there’s this devoted gallery space that just ended up being perfect for our sort of inquiries and shows,” explained Mingst.

Those “inquiries” Mingst refers to are the themes around which Curious Matter exhibitions are based. The pair curate a new show about every two months. They line the walls with works by artists from all over, and that amalgamation of artistic interpretations is where the gallery got its name.

“The term ‘curious matter’ is what happens when the alchemist is putting stuff in the furnace, and it starts congealing and working around,” said Bruso. “What’s in the alchemist furnace is what’s called ‘curious matter’.”

The tiny, offbeat gallery began attracting attention. Two years ago Mingst and Bruso partnered with Jersey City’s Art House Productions to expand the gallery’s reach, and their commute every day is ideal.

“It’s been perfect really for us,” said Mingst. “We can live with this work, but it’s also separate from our living spaces and our studio practices.”

Their current exhibit is called “A Dark Wood“. It draws inspiration from a passage of Dante’s “Inferno”. Mingst says visitors are more likely to take that information in here — along with the artists’ statements — than they might be elsewhere.

“I think the intimacy of the space really does encourage people to just take time here,” said Mingst. “We’ve been talking, all of us in the art world, about the vast, white gallery spaces, and I think there’s almost an inclination to just consume the art rapidly… And when you come into this space, because of the intimacy … people take a lot of time here.”

And that’s something Mingst and Bruso love to see.

“I keep blowing my mind about the reputation we have outside,” said Bruso. “And it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re just these two guys who hang pictures on our wall.'”

Nevertheless, they’re excited the passion project has found a following in those who have a love for art and a curious spirit. “A Dark Wood” will be on display at Curious Matter and Art House gallery through Dec. 9.