Jersey City Museum, in collaboration with several other participating New Jersey venues, has organized SPRAWL, a bold, multi-venue exhibition that will bring together work by artists statewide to focus on New Jersey’s legacy of sprawl. An idea initially developed by South Orange artist and designer Greg Leshé, each venue has organized its own part of the project, so that each exhibition is unique. The effects on urban, suburban, rural and marginalized landscapes are all addressed by these exhibitions. An unprecedented number of New Jersey artists are being featured throughout the state in each of the shows. Artists were invited to propose works in any media that addressed sprawl and its varying effects on the rapidly-changing, post-industrial landscape of New Jersey. Housing projects, interstates, urban detritus, abandoned buildings, roadside motels, garden ornaments and wildlife are seen throughout these exhibitions, as each of the artists addresses a facet of life influenced by sprawl.
As part of The New Jersey Fine Arts Annual, works exhibited at the museum include both Juried work and work that has been selected by the museum. Pat Brentano’s drawings propose a “re-installation” of natural elements at entrances and exits to the New Jersey Turnpike. Emma Wilcox’s photographs monumentalize decrepit and abandoned buildings in Newark. Dahlia Elsayed’s work is about the Turnpike and with each exit being associated with a trip from the past, is like a map of her memories. The performance work of Greg Buegel features a live lemonade stand that questions the safety of the water used to make a refreshing summer drink in the suburbs. Valeri Larko takes objects that others have cast off, such as old stoves and cars, and piles them into her carefully painted suburban landscapes. Other artists in the exhibition include Robert Kogge, Mauro Altamura, Michelle Loughlin and Tim Daly.
A special mini-exhibition within SPRAWL is the Hummer Ryan Roa Edition, a single, monumental sculpture of a Hummer created-to-scale from plywood created by Ryan Roa. The Hummer appears larger than life and has made it’s temporary home, impressively, on Jersey City Museum’s second floor atrium gallery. As with many of the artworks in SPRAWL, the sculpture is both witty and beautiful but beneath the whimsy is a direct statement on the state of consumerism in our modern age.
The museum’s Curator, Rocio Aranda-Alvarado, Ph.D., sees the exhibition as a way to connect emerging and established contemporary art sites throughout the state and to also reach a larger audience. Dr. Aranda-Alvarado says, “This topic is more relevant than ever, and so many of our best artists are obsessed with landscape here in New Jersey, from the kitsch to the poetic. It’s a legacy that deserves our attention.”