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Newark USA

A fotojournal about LIVING in Newark USA, New Jersey's largest and most cultured city, by the author of the foto-essay website RESURGENCE CITY: Newark USA.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NJIT Art Show, 'The Westinghouse Project'

Notes: (1) Very long post, some 2,830 words, 36 pictures, and two videos. (2) I realized that this first art post is for an event that took place on the 11th, so I'm not backfilling, as I had thought, yesterday, to do, but am marching directly ahead. Regular readers who see all the work that goes into the next several posts, concerning Newark's October arts whirl, should understand.

On Friday, October 11th I attended the opening reception for a display of art inspired by and often incorporating materials from the magnificent old Westinghouse factory recently demolished. This is at least the third show in the Art + Archeology series curated by Matthew Gosser of NJIT, which memorializes old structures. The earlier two that I saw were about the former Hoffman Soda bottling plant and later Pabst brewery on South Orange Avenue, and the Old Essex County Jail. The demolition of the Westinghouse Building and Pabst Brewery were completed around the same time, only a couple of months ago.

The largest piece in the show is the "Tesla Tower", by Matt Gosser.

I got there much earlier than usual, a little after 6pm, because my friend Ingé, who was joining me, didn't want to stay late, and the music, from two bands, Manchild and The Plush Interior, wasn't supposed to start until 9:30, so I figured I might be able to hear well enuf to interview some of the artists present. (Manchild's website is one of those where you have to roll the cursor over elements of the pictures to find links to more information.) A permanent record of artists' remarks, and of various people's ID's and such that I would ordinarily speak into my handheld dictation machine would have to be made in the form of videos because I didn't know where my dictation unit is. (Days later I found it behind some lite things it had displaced on the passenger seat of my car, to move to the back, under those lite things.) To the extent I did not make a video and did not take handwritten notes, I must rely on memory, and my memory of later events is spotty because I had much too much white wine, in that I stayed much longer than my usual hour or two at these events, in order to meet my other friend, Lisa, who arrived after Ingé departed.

Here, Ingé approaches Felipe Londono's Londonophone, which was also in the cWOW mentoring show in June. I ended up resting/sleeping for a couple of hours on a bench in the courtyard outside the venue and then taking a taxi home. Newark taxis are not cheap, and I am on Social Security, so I have learned my lesson: you can't drink wine like beer. It's much denser in alcohol. In any case, if people have more information to offer than appears in the captions below, I can add that info for the permanent record that remains in this blog for years to come.

Matt Gosser and an assistant were still putting together one of the three pieces in an artwork called "Floorlamp", even after the reception had begun. Here it is completed. The three stand at the end of the walls that divide the open space into different rooms.

Here's one of the rooms within the New Jersey School of Architecture Gallery (NJSOA). This room contains a moving mechanical sculpture (in the middle of the foto below), Seth Goodwin's Westingasaurus. Almost all the art is available for purchase, but I have so many pix to present not just in tonite's post but in the next several days' posts that I can't research all that info. Where I know the artist, I'll mention that, but anyone who thinks s/he might like to buy something they see here will need to check with the NJSOA Gallery as to a price list.

Let me just give here an overview of the exhibition and the happy camaraderie of the reception.

The back display room also held a refreshments area.

In the foto above appears a guy Ingé and I spoke with on a few occasions. He noticed things we had not, such as that there are three sculptures tied together by wires or cables from the Tesla Tower. I wondered if he was an artist and asked who he was. His answer, "Just a guy." But an insightful guy.

The large fotos show parts of the Westinghouse Building during demolition. Objects from the site are worked into the pieces of art to the right. What is to be done with the site? In the foto below appear renderings of a purely speculative proposal by architectural students to use recycled truck containers as housing.

A banner titled "Burnett [sic] Street School Neighborhood Plan Newark NJ", by Anker West, appears on the end wall of the second floor. People, please. There is only one T in Newark's street named "Burnet". I'm also ticked off by the British date order, "30 April, 2008". No. We don't say that, which would lead to "30/4/08". That is plain un-American. Boo, hiss. I haven't yet met Anker West, but have liked others of his things.

Here's a painting of Nikola Tesla, inventor of alternating current, which Westinghouse adopted in competition with Edison's direct current. The artwork list and program for the exhibit says that Tesla had a lab in Newark's Westinghouse Building, but his bio in Wikipedia includes no mention of that. If it's true, then both the pioneering giants of electricity had labs in Newark, because before Edison moved to Menlo Park, and later West Orange, he first set up shop in Newark. I'm not sure, but this portrait may be by Susan Stair, who mentioned Tesla having a lab in Newark.

Given that many of the works in this show are mechanical and hard, this dress, made from paper plans found on-site, stands out.

This velvet-lined meter box (Westinghouse Purse ) by Les Ayre, a woman I met when she had a major show at Rupert Ravens' gallery in May, combines hard, cold metal and soft, warm velvet. I saw her outside smoking a cigaret when I first arrived, but did not see her later to ask if she'd like to be pictured by this piece.

I did, however, get other artists to pose by their work. First is Beth Ann Morrison early in the evening.

Later on, I noted that she was wearing lacy fingerless gloves, which she shows us here.

Here, the ubiquitous Marco Muñoz stands by one of his three fotos in the show. What I intended to be a smile didn't turn out quite right. I told him, "Say queso" (Spanish for "cheese").

And here is Kevin Darmanie by one of his two pieces in the show, cartoons about a character called "Electro", drawn on Westinghouse papers.

In the next foto, Maria Mijares stands by her favorite in the show, the leftmost of her three paintings in this foto. I had asked Matt Gosser if she was there, but she wasn't yet, at that time. It occurs to me that I had asked Matt if he'd like to pose by his favorite piece, and left him to think which that might be, then completely forgot about it. When she arrived, Matt told her I was looking for her and pointed her in my direction. Maria has anglicized the pronunciation of her last name, with an English J-sound and short-A, not the Spanish H-sound and broad-A. Marco Muñoz was nearby, and I remarked on that to him. Marco is from Ecuador, Maria from Spain. Ingé liked her paintings, and especially the rightmost, perhaps best of all the things in the exhibit. She likes "pretty" art, and said aloud to me that that painting didn't belong with the other, industrial things in the show. But isn't that part of the point, to see, and show, beauty alongside what many people might think ugliness?

I did a video interview with Kathryn Okeson about her piece, Dear Westinghouse, thank you. We always knew that no company is more focused on digital entertainment, nuclear power, investments, broadcast media, light bulbs, and the consumer than you. I am embedding a video player here, but in case it doesn't work, you can go to its location on Blip.tv, http://blip.tv/file/1409032, which should definitely work. Alas, because Kathryn was standing, and her artwork was on the floor, as made including both in the same frame while remaining within earshot impossible while holding the camera in "landscape" position (the normal orientation of the camera), I unthinkingly turned the camera sideways, which I always do when the subject won't fit, landscape. I forgot that rotating a video is much more complicated than rotating a foto. A .JPG foto can be rotated without any loss of quality. A video from my camera, however, must first be converted from .MOV to .WMV format and then rotated. That conversion produced distortion. Sorry, Kathryn. She looks a lot better and a lot less squiggly, in person. The music had not yet started, but there were lots of people talking, so Kathryn had to speak very loud. I had the same problem with Ann Dushanko-Dobek in the video I showed here Friday. Am I the only person who, when told to speak louder, can bellow? I had speech training, and learned to "project". Neither Ann nor Kathryn managed to speak much louder when asked, but I hope you will nonetheless be able to hear what Kathryn says.

At the front of the room, in the right corner, was this pile of rubble with clean glass globes. I didn't know the significance, and there were no lites on within the globes when I first saw the piece. Only later did Ann Dushanko-Dobek, the artist herself, arrive, turn on the lites, and explain to me in the video I used here Friday, the significance of that artwork.

This piece is so different from much of Ann's earlier work that it was suggested to her that she tuck one of her signature butterflies between bricks of the rubble. So she did.

We were just getting ready to do the video interview when other things interfered. First, the band Manchild arrived and started to move equipment into place nearby, which moved my plastic cup of wine. Then Matt Gosser introduced a poet who was to read, to the accompaniment of a video on the wall, a piece about the Westinghouse Building built around words made from the letters W-E-S-T-I-N-G-H-O-U-S-E. Here is a sample, tho certainly not the whole poem.

This video shows the projection and then the poet, crouching on the floor to coordinate his speech with the words in the video projection. Again, if the embedded player doesn't work, the page on Blip.tv, http://blip.tv/file/1409168, should. This video shows Matt Gosser making his own video. Even after that poetry reading finished, there was a group of people in the space Ann and I needed for our interview, and we waited patiently for them to disperse, with just the barest nudge from Ann, who knew some of them. Then Ann and I were finally able to do the video interview featured here Friday.

The foto above shows a view from the second floor of Matt's own anagram from "Westinghouse", "With Uses Gone" — the disappearance of which use led to the disappearance of the building. This foto also shows the outriders and wire or cable connections from the Tesla Tower to nearby sculptures/installations. If you looked down from a bit farther forward, here is what you would have seen.

Still on the second floor, we see some of Matt's fotos along the railing.

But one of many people's favorite pieces in the entire show was a table and six chairs created by Matt from items he found on the Westinghouse site. In this picture, you can see Matt (let's assume this is his favorite piece, and I did get a picture of him by his favorite piece after all, tho he really did not say it was his favorite), second from left; Senegalese(?) artist Ibou Ndoye to his right; Kevin Darmanie across from Matt; and, I believe, Noelle Williams at near end. I don't know the others. Sorry.

Outside the main exhibition space was this piece, hanging strips on which are printed obituaries of people who had worked in the Westinghouse factory, dropping past a stairway to the second floor apart from the area used in the exhibition.

Back downstairs, there were two walls of multiple metal objects, Electric Toast and Electric Waffle, both by Pete Tuomey.

Ingé and I agreed that this wall must be the Toast, because the items on the other were simply rectangular, but these appear to have the profile of bread dough spilling over a baking pan.

I'm not sure whose work the piece above is. It might be Kati Vilim's Westinghouse Fragments, "photograms" (which Merriam-Webster defines as "a shadowlike photograph made by placing objects between light-sensitive paper and a light source".

The mask above was a very popular interactive item. I don't know whose it is nor what it is supposed to represent.

The first floor also contained usable furniture created by Matt Gosser, altho no one sat on the chaise longue while I was near. The chaise is actually a piece Matt created from Pabst brewery objects, shown in an earlier show, but he needed something to accompany the coffee table he created from objects found at the Westinghouse site.

By this time, the first band, Manchild, had started to play, and many of us in attendance were 'socially lubricated' by the alcoholic grapejuice on offer. I met another of the artists, Amanda Thackray, who smiles beside her piece in the show. It compares the vanes of an electric fan to the wings of an insect.

By this time I was "in my cups", that is, little plastic cups of white wine. These members of the crowd were happy in the art and music, but I remember almost nothing of the conversation.

That may not be very important, since deep conversation between strangers rarely happens. What matters more in a social occasion is being sociable. And Newark art receptions are unpretentious social occasions in which people of many types mix happily and comfortably. Fortunately, I am a happy drunk, unlike some other people of partial Irish ancestry, so the people in this foto are smiling rather than fiting.

The last foto today is of the second band, The Plush Interior, who played us out.

To borrow from Walter Cronkite (who??), "And that's the way it was, October 11th, 2008."

I'm not clear on how long the exhibit will remain in place, but you can see it from 9am to 4:30pm Monday thru Friday (free). You can learn the end date thru Matt Gosser's website.

The NJSOA Gallery is in the skinny building, front-to-back, shown above, at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Warren Street. The address is 367 MLK, tho it was wrongly given in a poster as 267. There apparently is no number on the building. What is NJIT's management thinking in not identifying every building on campus? I'm sometimes amazed at the stupidity of supposedly intelligent people, as in university administration. Even Matt Gosser, an instructor at NJIT and director of the Gallery, thought the building's address was 267 MLK. How can any college administration be so stupid as to leave buildings without street addresses? And how can any city government permit building owners to leave building numbers off their buildings? People need to find their way around unfamiliar areas. Address numbers must be shown, at a size that drivers can see clearly from the street. If such numbers are not shown, someone must be punished until they are.

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