On Saturday I attended the opening of the latest show at the New Jersey School of Architecture Gallery on the NJIT campus. These things are always enjoyable.
A few minutes after I arrived, Matthew Gosser, director of the gallery, stopped by and said, "Craig, right?" We had met several times over many months, but I wasn't sure he remembered my name. People skills are, naturally, part of what the curator of an art show has to have. I said I half expected to see him at the Ravens gallery opening the nite before, but didn't. He replied that he was indeed there but could stay for only about a half hour because he had to tend to last-minute preparations for his own gallery's show the following day.
One reason I went to the first NJIT show I saw is that it concerned the old Hoffman soda bottling plant/Pabst brewery on South Orange Avenue that used to have a giant bottle as its water tower. I had passed by it hundreds of times on my way Downtown and back home. Matt showed, in that exhibition, some furniture he made from objects found at the brewery site, but he didn't have anything of his own in the second NJIT show I attended. He just curated. This time, he had two pieces I saw, and liked. (Any others?) Here's the first, "Table Lamp", made from found objects from the site that is the focus of this show (see below). The lantern that encloses the litebulb is an inverted roof drain.
Titled "The Modified History of Downtown Newark", the exhibition focuses on an area of Downtown cleared for the Arena and other big projects:
The approximate 22 acres of land in question contained many artists’ lofts, residential brownstones, small businesses, an 18th century church graveyard paved over in the 1950’s, Newark’s lost Chinatown, the abandoned Central Railroad terminal and the only active neighborhood firehouse situated in the downtown core. For the greater good, hundreds of individuals were forced to find new places to live, work or reestablish as their place of business. Hopefully, the Newark of the future will appreciate the sacrifices made of the past.Not everything was torn down, of course. I liked this Anker West stoneware piece, "Central graphic arts building sculpture". It's perhaps two feet long.
I had thought that building, which looks like a warehouse more than a printing-trades center, was going to be demolished for the Arena, but either the Arena was re-sited or I was misinformed, and the plan did not initially contemplate that building's destruction. I did an unsuccessful Internet search for what exactly the building had been used for. In the process, however, I found a brief New York Times story from April 2, 1989 about a different use that the building was to have been put to by 1991:
One of the largest developments in the recent history of downtown Newark has been approved by the city's Planning Board, and construction of the $130 million project, named One Penn Center, is to start this summer. The project involves construction of a 33-story tower with 750,000 square feet divided into office space, retail space and a 300-room hotel. The project also will incorporate the Central Graphic Arts Building, a seven-story Renaissance Revival building erected in 1907. The existing building will be topped with four new stories of office space, while interior renovation will create a garage for 1,000 cars. * * *None of that happened. I didn't think The New York Times went in for April Fool's jokes. (The story appeared on April 2nd, and the Times is a morning newspaper, so the event presumably occurred April 1st.) Here's what the building looked like on October 14th of this year, before the Arena parking lot, in the foreground, was paved.
The Newark Planning Board also has approved a fifth Gateway Center building, a 27-story office tower.
This is the other Gosser piece, "Neo-Prometheus", seen here front and, in the reflection, back. I tried to fotograf the description alongside, but the picture didn't turn out. Too dim.
The next three pieces are by an artist who, like Matt Gosser, works with found objects. I don't know what these agglomerated sculptures are, but they're colorful and intricate, so you might spend a lot of time with them and still see something different each time you view them, up close or from across the room.
This next piece is explained in the card shown in the picture below it (so I don't have to type). If you don't see a picture but only text, that is because the foto is of a white card.
Most of the exhibit is on the first floor, but there are some items, mainly fotos, on the second. Looking down from there, you can see the layout of much of the room. What you can't see, and what some visitors even on the first floor might miss, is a 'fallout shelter' in an almost hidden room directly under where I was standing when I took this picture. (What appears to be someone lying down on the floor is a soft sculpture.)
Ordinarily I would have taken a picture of the band, but the first band stopped playing and packed up to go, shortly before I had finished touring the exhibit, and the second band had not yet set up by the time I left. I was tired from a long nite Friday. So, no band picture/s this time.
Perhaps the richest tones in the show appear in this work, "Golden Age Ruins", by Maria Mijares.
The camera was a bit dazzled, so sees double around the roofline of the building in front.
My absolute favorite thing in the show — no offense intended to the other artists' works — is this, which is explained in the card shown in the next foto below it.
The scene is meant to recreate the west side of Mulberry Street between Lafayette Street and Edison Place (the last-named of which was apparently, from maps in the exhibit, called Mechanic Street before Thomas Edison became a giant in national esteem; from "Mechanic" to "Edison" seems a very reasonable leap). That is the exact site of the Arena/Prudential Center today. Let's close, then, with Maria Mijares' painting of the Edison Place façade of the Arena, "To the Future".
The exhibition can be seen 9am-4pm, Monday-Friday until December 2, 2007, at 116 Summit Street, on the campus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Science Park/Downtown Newark. (I see no mention of an admission fee, so perhaps it's free. The opening was.)