Soul of a Shopkeeper: A Visit to Art and Artifacts of Newark
What’s made of brass, glass, wood, and has zebra stripes? I tell you, it’s in Newark! And if it ever was built or manufactured or invented or promoted Newark, chances are it is going to find a wandering way to a project by artist, curator, and lover of objects Matthew Gosser. Take a piece of the city home with you at a truly one-of-a-kind shop.
Visit Art & Artifacts of Newark, a pop-up gallery/antique shop created by Gosser as part of a curatorial residency with Index Art Center. The spot is open 11am to 6pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Now I know you might wonder about a place that’s only open three days a week, but let me explain. In Newark, the sense of history is so deeply palpable that a person could live and breathe nothing but it, 24/7, learning the names of every building, every family whose name is braided into our city story. Mr. Gosser occupies a rather unusual niche in our arts and cultural ecosystem as an architecture professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology who is also an obsessive spelunker, with the collector gene many artists seem to have.
So the shop is not some callow mercantile effort sourced from auctions, but really a cavernous extension of more than a decade and change of Gosser’s life and times in the city. As a comprehensive listing of all the antique treasures for sale is simply impossible to compile given the volume of merch, and the changing tides of his willingness to turn it out for cash, I submit visual evidence in the form of the many pictures I took while idling a rainy afternoon in my happy perusement. An old restaurant sign with slow, magisterially revolving green-lit arrows hung above me, as did a 1960’s mod chandelier and a flag from an old, old schoolhouse. The 19th, 20th and even 21st centuries lay down like lion and lamb in this antique shop that also is ambitiously curated with a revolving display of artworks by local artists.
Each object for sale has a handwritten (in a girly cursive) tag with information: origin story and price, though I suggest bargaining hard! Gosser’s original creations are also for sale: an enormous robot made from factory artifacts, and some very stylish chairs, are amongst the offerings. I was tempted by a beautiful antique camera, but managed an uncharacteristic restraint, at least for now. A cinema popcorn machine, a victrola, and most touchingly, an incredible array of vintage tee shirts from Newark marching bands, varsity teams, clubs, and celebrations.
As a trustee on the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee, Gosser helped to get their newest book, “Newark Landmark Treasures” published on the occasion of the 350th Anniversary of the founding of the City of Newark, New Jersey. “Newark Landmark Treasures” brings together, for the first-time, narratives of Newark’s buildings, parks, public art and historic districts that are on the State and/or National Register of Historic Places. It is a well-researched work compiled by NPLC’s Mark W. Gordon and Anthony Schuman, with photos by one Matthew Gosser. This is but one way to absorb the city’s sense of place.
Or go pet the zebra at 233 Washington Street. While this claim could not be verified as of publication time, he suggests to you, dear reader, that it is the only zebra within city limits. And it needs a good home. Like your living room.
Evonne M. Davis and Emma Wilcox are working artists and cofounders of a Newark alternative arts nonprofit. Begun in 2003, Gallery Aferro offers exhibitions featuring local, national and international artists, a wide range of public events, a year-round studio residency program, educational offerings, group tours, a publication line, a gift shop and public art initiatives.