March 18th, 2008

Note: The Gallery in Dumbo, Brooklyn is no longer open.

JOSEPH Arthur has set up his own arts utopia with a gallery in DUMBO, creating the perfect place to paint, play and perform - and sell the results on Internet. The Brooklyn gallery opened about a year ago and sits just steps away from the East River, in a 2000-square-foot spot on Jay Street. He playfully dubbed it MOMAR - the Museum of Modern Arthur.

The airy room is filled with his abstract paintings, with titles - such as "Dream of Eternal Life" - scribbled on the wall. The rocker's art studio is through one door, cluttered with canvases. Farther back is his music studio.

The new setting must be inspiring indeed. Arthur, an Akron, Ohio, native, plans to release four EPs and one album this year. The first EP, "Could We Survive," comes out today on his own label, Lonely Astronaut (Download the disc's "Rags of Babylon" on

"The approach that suits me - the approach the Internet is dictating - is more output," says Arthur, who lives in Manhattan.

"Andy Warhol's approach to art is an ideal for me; make art and while people are deciding whether they like it or not, make more art."

It's not a factory in either sense of the word, but that idea fits in with his belief that making music is becoming more like a blue-collar job. He considers MOMAR a business venture as well as a creative hub. On Friday, he'll hold "The Resurrection Show" at the space (25 Jay St. at 8 p.m. $40;

At times, the 32-year-old is more of a performance artist than musician. At the Bowery Ballroom a few years ago, he performed songs, taping and looping himself, then stepped away from the mike to paint on a canvas.

Arthur's prolific output was one reason for him to move away from a label, where an artist typically releases only one album every two years. "I love recording and making lots of music. To have it sit and collect dust is disheartening," he says.

Although his Ohio hometown was no artistic oasis, Arthur made the best of it, playing bass in a blues band in high school. The group opened for the likes of Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan in Cleveland. He made $50 a night. For a teen, "I was loaded," he says. "I was living an adult life."

He moved to Atlanta, where he continued to play bass in bands - one a fusion band and another a rock band. That was no utopia, either. "I realized there was more to music than trying to get people to mosh," he says. He quit playing live, picked up an acoustic guitar and worked on songs on an eight-track recorder.

In 1996, his first cassette of demo tracks ended up with Peter Gabriel. Eventually Arthur became the first rocker signed to Gabriel's label, and the Genesis founder invited him to "Recording Week" at Gabriel's Real World studios in the English countryside.

He found other inspirations, eventually moving to New York, where he has lived on and off for 12 years. And now, with MOMAR, it looks like he's finally has settled into another utopia - this one self-made. - By MARY HUHN