ART & ARTIFACTS OF NEWARK
CoAD GALLERY AT NJIT
A&AN / CO-AD GALLERY DIRECTOR MATTHEW GOSSER SPEAKS ABOUT
HIS PRACTICE AND HOW THAT INFORMS HIS CURATORIAL DIRECTION
YOU ARE AN ARTIST, AN ARCHITECT, RESEARCHER AND ORGANIZER. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR PRACTICE PRIOR TO ART & ARTIFACTS NEWARK, AND THE CO-AD GALLERY? WOULD YOU SHARE A PAST EXHIBITION OR PROJECT THAT YOU FEEL IS REPRESENTATIVE OF YOUR CURATORIAL APPROACH?
In my early career, I worked for an architecture firm that rehabilitated older buildings in the NY metro area. As I was measuring the interiors, taking photos and trying to figure out how to adaptively re-use the space, I fell in love with the textures of old dilapidated things. That led to exploring abandoned buildings on my own in NY, Newark, California and Europe, taking black and white photos and exhibiting them in fine art galleries. To add more context to these photographic series,’ I’d do historical research and collect artifacts, especially if the sites were being demolished. Soon after, I started to create collages, sculptures and furniture designs out of those salvaged artifacts and organized group exhibits that dealt with specific, culturally significant sites in Newark such as the Pabst Brewery, Westinghouse Factory, Paramount Theater, Essex County Jail, and others.
ART & ARTIFACTS NEWARK IS A FAIRLY NEW VENTURE. WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS FOR FOUNDING IT?
I’ve been exploring abandoned Newark buildings and collecting artifacts from them for over 20 years. I literally have tons and tons of objects that occupy several storage areas in Newark and Paterson. Art & Artifacts began as a way to display and (more importantly) get rid a portion of my collection of Newark-related artifacts. I also really enjoy operating a store- front gallery in downtown Newark with a consistent street presence which allows me to meet all sorts of people who also have a love of and/or personal attachment to Newark. Young Newarkers may not know what half the artifacts are but they’re interested in learning. And older Newarkers share interesting stories every time an artifact triggers memories of their childhood.
WHAT ARE A COUPLE OF YOUR FAVORITE ARTIFACTS THAT ARE PRESENTLY ON DISPLAY?
One of my favorite artifacts is a very early security system that I salvaged from the Westinghouse Factory. It’s based off of ticker-tape technology and looks like a series of industrial jewelry boxes with faceted glass, hand cranks and lots of little gears. I also really love the old blueprints that I found in the debris of the Pabst Brewery. Most of them date back to the 1920’s, when it was the Hoffman Beverage Co. There are building plans, bottle designs, conveyor layouts, fermentation tanks, delivery truck designs.... basically every object at the brewery was designed and fabricated on-site. Conveyor parts that I salvaged and turned into a chair are represented on several of these blueprints hat I found.
IN ADDITION TO SHOWCASING LOCAL ARTIFACTS, YOU HAVE AN EXCITING ARRAY OF ACCOMPANYING EXHIBITIONS. HOW ARE THOSE ARTISTS SELECTED?
The main wall in the Art & Artifacts space is reserved for featured Newark artists. Every 2 months, I exhibit a different artist who has a strong connection to Newark (either lives or works in town) and who preferably creates work that references Newark in some way. So far, I’ve shown the work of Anker West, Luisa Pinzon, Malik Whitacker, Lisa Conrad, Kevin Darmanie and Stephen McKenzie. In the Fall, I’m excited to be exhibiting the work of Armisey Smith. Having been an artist and curator in Newark for the past two decades, I have personal relationships with most of the artists in town. I try to select artists that represent the diversity I love in the Newark art scene.... men, women, black, white, Latino, emerging, established.
AS NEWARK IS RAPIDLY CHANGING, DO YOU HAVE HOPES ABOUT HOW ART & ARTIFACTS NEWARK PLAYS A ROLE IN SHARING THE HISTORY OF THIS CITY? WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR AUDIENCE TO GAIN BY SPENDING TIME AT A&AN?
Many of my patrons come in to Art & Artifacts to get something to display in their local restaurant, office or home. People are starting to come to or come back to Newark and want something that represents Newark or reminds them of the Newark they used to know. I love the fact that Newark is making something of a comeback and I hope people take the time to learn more about this great city. From all the research that I’ve done, I know what a spectacular history Newark offers. If I can get some of this history back into the public realm, for people to enjoy while fostering a deeper respect for Newark, I don’t mind letting go of some of my collection.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH THE CoAD GALLERY? IS THERE CROSS OVER BETWEEN YOUR PROGRAMS? HOW DOES IT DIFFER?
I’ve been the CoAD Gallery Director for 12 years. Our primary goal at CoAD Gallery is to provide our students with exhibitions related to the degree programs that we offer: architecture, digital design, industrial design, interior design and various fine arts media. Secondly, and where there is a cross-over with Art & Artifacts, we deal with issues relating to Newark. We are always attempting to bring aspects of Newark into NJIT and foster community relations within the downtown neighborhood that NJIT has been part of since 1884. We’ve created exhibits that highlight local landmarks such as the Pabst Brewery and Westinghouse Factory and local artists/architects such aWillie Cole and Richard Meier. CoAD Gallery is an institutional venue so we don’t focus on sales like Art & Artifacts of Newark has to. Also, Art & Artifacts is a much smaller venue and only hosts solo exhibits of Newark artists or Newark-inspired art.