Westinghouse Exhibition: Requesting Submissions

The New Jersey School of Architecture is requesting artist submissions for an upcoming exhibition of the Newark Westinghouse building. The Westinghouse building, which once housed the early industrial work of Thomas Edison, is being razed to make way for the city’s plans to build a transit village in Downtown Newark, across from Broad Street Station. The demolition — indeed, the building itself — has been a subject of controversy, and Newarkers have asked whether the building could have been rehabilitated rather than torn down.

I met with Matt Gosser, the director of the NJSOA Gallery, at his workshop at NJIT, to discuss the project and find out more about his work. I stepped into a room that was half studio, half machine shop. Bits of the Westinghouse building littered the room from late night raids on the demolition site — massive orange letters from the building signage were propped behind me and boxes full of switches, dials and gauges were stacked in a shelving unit along the opposite wall.

A student entered the room to construct a sculpture out of the debris as Gosser showed me old receipts, reference cards, cleared checks, and other detritus from a century ago. The machinery he pulled off the shelves reminded me of my own father’s machine shop from decades ago, with oversize levers that clunked and snapped into place to confirm their position. They were relics from an age that existed before the point-and-click; physical design cues that we only mimic now on screens of light and color.

I asked how long Gosser, whose exhibition of the Pabst Brewery earned him a write-up in the New York Times in 2006, had been working with “found” materials in his work in general, and how long he’d been working on the Westinghouse project in particular. His words — he had been scavenging the Westinghouse since they parked demolition machinery outside of the building — conveyed a passion for the history of architecture. He hoped to be able to purchase and personally restore a building in downtown Newark himself one day.

To see more of Gosser’s work, check out his website: gosser.info. For information about the Westinghouse Project, see the full release after the jump.

The New Jersey School of Architecture (NJSOA) is requesting artwork submissions for possible inclusion in its Fall exhibition: The Westinghouse Project. The following themes dealing with the long abandoned and currently being demolished Westinghouse factory in Newark, NJ will be considered:

  • Sculpture, collage, lighting, furniture or installations made from artifacts salvaged from the Westinghouse factory.
  • Paintings, photographs, drawings, videos, etc. that document past, present or imagined conditions of the Westinghouse factory.
  • Westinghouse appliances/products, electricity, mechanics, kinetics, lighting, motors, alternating (AC) vs direct (DC) current, invention, instrumentation, circuit boards, vacuum tubes, scientific advancement, manufacturing, mass production, etc.
  • Westinghouse branding/marketing, factory culture, punch clocks, company forms/paperwork, industrialism, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the working class, strikes, muzak, loss of Newark’s industrial heritage, etc.
  • Poetry, literature, fashion, song writing, performance art, spoken word and any other form of art will also be considered as long as it deals with these Westinghouse-related themes.
  • A special section of the exhibition will be devoted to the idea: What if Nikola Tesla had a secret laboratory that was uncovered by the recent demolition of the factory? Artworks exploring this idea can include weird machines, testing equipment, inventions, self-illuminated and/or kinetic sculptures, scientific drawings/diagrams, perhaps even a tribute to Tesla?

Requirements, guidelines and timetable

  • Submit .jpg images via email to: smatt_nj@yahoo.com. Include title, description, dimensions, price, your name and any special requirements.
  • There are no submission fees or commissions on sales.
  • Transportation and insurance of artwork to and from NJSOA is the responsibility of the artist.
  • Artwork will be insured by NJSOA for the duration of the exhibition.
  • Artwork must be collected within 2 days of the exhibition closing.

Timetable

  • September 03 – Deadline for submissions
  • September 07 – Artists notified of decline/acceptance
  • September 17 – Artwork must be dropped off at the gallery
  • September 20 – Opening of exhibition
  • October 23 – Open studio tour party
  • December 05 – Closing reception
  • December 07 – Artwork must be collected

(Dates subject to change)

About the Exhibition

The latest installment in a series of Ar+chaeology exhibitions, The Westinghouse Project, is scheduled to debut this Fall at the New Jersey School of Architecture Gallery. “Ar+chaeology” refers to an art movement concerned with the exploration of abandoned buildings and the transformation of found artifacts into artwork that speaks somehow of the places they were found. Previous exhibitions have promoted a greater appreciation of sites such as the Pabst Brewery, the old Essex County Jail and the Mulberry Street Firehouse in Newark.

Historical background of Westinghouse in Newark

The abandoned Westinghouse factory complex spans two city blocks adjacent to Broad Street Train Station just north of Downtown Newark. The original 4-story brick factory was built in 1890 along the eastern edge of the site. A year later, George Westinghouse acquired the United Electric Light Company (an 1878 structure on the western edge of the site). During the early 1900’s, the properties between those buildings were purchased, razed and replaced by structures joining the complex into a seamless 4-story brick façade bounding Orange Street, University Avenue and Lackawanna Plaza.

The first products made in the Newark factory were trolley motors, electrical switchboards, arc lamps, volt meters and watt-hour meters, most of which benefited from advancements made by Nikola Tesla in the area of AC electricity. By the 1920’s, Westinghouse’s Meter Division (as it was now known) had increased production to a wide variety of meters and instruments, protective relays, electric fans and radio speakers… as well as housing one of the country’s earliest radio stations (The first world series was broadcast from the roof of the building). During WWII, the Meter Division focused on supplying shock-proof relays, gauges and instrumentation for military use in tanks, planes and warships. At the height of its activity in the 1950’s and 60’s, the factory produced over a thousand varieties of relays, electrical instruments and tele-metering/switchboard equipment.

In order to keep up with production, the interior courtyard was converted into a warehouse and by 1969 a 5-story modernist building capped the western edge of the 500,000 sq. ft. complex. Soon after however, Westinghouse began laying off employees and by 1984 had vacated and sold the property to a consortium of developers that tried unsuccessfully to rehabilitate the complex. In 2007, demolition commenced, exposing room after room of electrical instrumentation, architectural salvage, machinery and varied factory debris.

(Release images copyright Matt Gosser)

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Newarker, PCA Elder, Business Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.

3 thoughts on “Westinghouse Exhibition: Requesting Submissions”

  1. Matt is one of the most courageous, creative, and passionate persons that I have met in this enduring city. In fact, we actually met in the dim twilight inside the Westinghoues Building, where we shared the same sadness and pain of the loss of the city. I saw a dark silhouette, a tall figure with something (an old sink)on the shoulder. We have developed some unspoken bond since that scary moment. Afterwards, I wrote a piece for TDN, City Without Memory, to commemorate our common loss. He told me that his next stop will be the Murphy Varnish Building, the only historic building on the National Register of Historic Places in Ironbound. However, I have determined to do much more to prevent another loss of the city’s history. Join me for a Murphy Varnish Building Rescue Committee!

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  2. I hate that they destroyed this perfectly good building. It could have been converted into apartments and people would have flocked there due to its location next to broad street station. Every day now, i get to look at the huge eyesore which is now a pit and pile of rubble. It’s been demolished since 2007 and only now they’re doing groundwater rehab to the site.

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