Newark: A Pictorial History

This exhibit was on display from May 7 to August 31, 2018 on the second floor main gallery of the Newark Public Library.

The results of my summer research project were transformed into this exhibition of fine prints, postcards, and photographs of Newark from the eighteenth century through the present day, all selected from the library’s Special Collections. Like my Newark Metamorphosis project, this exhibit similarly relied on past vs. present photo comparisons of Newark. Old postcards were paired against present day photos of the same location from the identical camera angle. I contributed about thirty-five of these comparisons. I also assisted the library with $8,000 funding to digitize its extensive map and postcard collection from summer 2016 through summer 2017.

Time-lapse History of Newark

 

 

As Newark celebrates the 350th anniversary of its founding in 1666, I created this series of drawings based on historical images and maps. As Newark develops from a small town to a bustling and industrial metropolis, the sounds shift from quiet woodlands to the din of the vibrant city with rising skyscrapers. This two minute time-lapse aims to artistically represent history as a living and fluid process. As Newark looks to the future, it stands on 350 years of history.

Pictures of Newark

As a lifelong citizen of Newark, I spent much of the past few years painting and photographing my changing city. Pictures features a selection of my work, complemented by classical music. Five of Modest Mussorgsky’s pieces from his composition Pictures at an Exhibition are selected, each of which represents the feel of a certain part of Newark. The following five locations are featured:

  1. THE PASSAIC RIVER – music: Mussorgsky’s Promenade
  2. OLD ESSEX COUNTY JAIL – music: With the Dead in the Language of Death
  3. MOUNT PLEASANT CEMETERY – music: Promenade
  4. DOWNTOWN NEWARK – music: Mozart’s Death March (k 453a)
  5. PORT NEWARK – music: Promenade

Growing up in Newark, I am inspired and saddened by the inner city. I am inspired by Newark’s hope of renewal after decades of white flight, under-investment, and urban neglect. I am saddened by the loss of my city’s historic architecture and urban fabric to the wrecking ball of what is called progress.

Curious about the history of the old Essex County Jail? Explore this interactive exhibit.

Vanishing City: An Artist’s Reflection

Vanishing City is a visual documentary about redevelopment in Newark, New Jersey. Through this series, I document the beauty behind decay, destruction, and possible rebirth.

I am witness to the frighteningly beautiful decay of my city’s cultural heritage. An abandoned barge slowly sinks in murky waters.  A former factory tumbles before the wrecking ball.  A sea of weeds lays siege to a vacant home. An empty lot is a gaping hole, a missing tooth, in the urban body. As a wall crumbles to the ground, a tree, firmly anchored to the wall, reaches for the sky. While my city’s industrial past slowly succumbs to demolition, new buildings grow from old lots.

Behind this slow decay, there is a hidden beauty in the transient. It is the realization that what was built to last forever, will not last. It is the expectation that the destruction of the past could contain the seeds of a better city. I hope that someday the history of the built environment will become cherished in its entirety because a city is lifeless without culture and history.

When one visits the ruins of past civilizations, such as Greece, Carthage, and Rome, one sees them as shards of memory. Their grandeur comes not from seeing them intact but from imagining them as they once were; grandeur lost is often more evocative than grandeur still extant. These ruins are powerful because of their decay, not in spite of it.

The battered past should inform the present. I look at the built world of today and ask: Will the monuments we erect to culture and capitalism endure? The Greek forum became a symbol for democracy; could the same destiny await our society’s equivalent “forums,” the strip mall, grocery store, and drive-thru? What will the future remember us by?

My transient urban environment compels me to examine and re-examine my sense of place before it vanishes from memory.

View more artwork like this on my website.