A Fragile Utopia: Studios & Spaces at 111 First Street by Edward Fausty
Contact: Kate Somers
September 2 – October 20, 2006
Artist reception: October 13, 2006, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Gallery hours Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.to 5 p.m.
The story of 111 First Street, an old factory building in Jersey City, is of the tension between 200 artists and a billionaire landlord. When it became clear that the artists might be forced to leave their homes and studio space, one of these artists, Edward Fausty, felt compelled to photograph the studios and public space in the building, in order to record the "fragile utopia" that had been his home and community. It is a classic story between speculative absentee landlord/developers and the local citizens impacted by their projects.
A Fragile Utopia: Studios and Spaces of 111 First Street is also much more than a record of the demise of a special building and community. While the history behind the project and the specific details of each photograph do help orient the viewer, the enjoyment of these images goes well beyond the factual details. Each picture is like a visual equivalent of a William Trevor short story set in New Jersey. Whether Fausty focuses his lens on objects in a storage cabinet, or a ripped poster on a bathroom wall, or the gaping hole in the ground where a building once stood, there is a palpable sense of nostalgia, mixed with the gothic and comic. And like Trevor, the scenes depicted are done with a pitch perfect mix of sparseness and detail. However, unlike a Trevor story, there are usually no people in Fausty's photographic narrative of 111 First Street. But their presence is felt nonetheless. The overwhelming mood is one of compassion for the eccentric individuals who have domesticated what many would consider an inhospitable environment.
After completing his BFA at Cooper Union, Fausty went on to receive his MFA from Yale School of Art. At Yale, he became interested in ink on paper, influenced by MacArthur fellow Richard Benson, a master lithographer and photographer. Fausty then began to explore the medium of collotype, in which gelatin plates yield continuous tone screenless ink prints from photographic negatives. For the next twelve years, the artist perfected this technique, eventually buying his own press. Fausty's love of ink on paper took an unexpected turn in 1998. The images in this exhibition are all made on medium format color film and then scanned and output onto Arches rag paper using wide-format pigmented digital inkjet technology.
The Bernstein Gallery is located on the lower level of Robertson Hall in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. For directions, please call (609) 258-2222.