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Two Exhibitions. Two Themes. One New Jersey.

2003-11-21

Experience what makes New Jersey one of the most distinct and culturally diverse states in the nation in two new exhibitions, City on Display: A Newark Photographer and His Clients, 1890s-1940sand ¡Que bonita bandera! The Puerto Rican Flag as Folk Art, now on view at The New Jersey Historical Society.

City on Display: A Newark Photographer and His Clients, 1890s-1940s
Waves of newcomers, breathless construction, and teeming streets: this was the American city in the early 20th-century, the time that historians call the Age of Metropolitanism.

This was Newark, New Jersey.

Commercial photographer William F. Cone captured this period of growth through an unparalleled record of images taken during a career that lasted nearly 75 years.

From an extensive collection of more than 9,400 glass plate negatives, The New Jersey Historical Society has selected over 100 images of Cone’s work for display in its new exhibition, City on Display: A Newark Photographer and His Clients, 1890s-1940s, an exhibition curated by guest curator Joshua Brown, guest curator and Executive Director of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at The Graduate Center of City University of New York (CUNY).

Born in 1875, Cone came of age as he chronicled the growing city for his clients. He worked alone, tramping across rail yards, into restaurants, and through private homes to take photographs that would please his clients — businesses like department stores, social clubs, churches, and insurance firms.

By the time he died in 1966 at the age of 91, William Cone had documented accidents, recorded newsworthy events, captured the look of businesses and the activities of organizations, and much, much more. The thousands of photos he amassed offer a remarkable view of a changing metropolis.

“We are thrilled to present this unparalleled set of images to the public,” said Sally Yerkovich, President & CEO of The New Jersey Historical Society. “We look at Cone’s photographs as documents of Newark almost 100 years ago. They weren’t intended to record the city’s history, but when we look at them closely, we can find intriguing clues to Newark’s past.”

Cone, who set up his photography business in 1895, resisted the confinement of standard portrait work and focused his career on commercial photography.

In this 1,300-square-foot interactive exhibition, visitors can “go behind the lens” and manipulate a photo’s frame; arrange a store window display; make decisions about the layout of a city and the design of a living space, and more.

¡Que bonita bandera! The Puerto Rican Flag as Folk Art
It’s much more than just a pretty flag. The Puerto Rican flag and its use as a symbol of cultural expression and political identity has transformed the Forbes Gallery of The New Jersey Historical Society into an oasis of Puerto Rican pride and culture.

In collaboration with CityLore of New York City, the Historical Society is proud to present the traveling multi-media exhibition, ¡Que bonita bandera! The Puerto Rican Flag as Folk Art, which highlights the ways in which the flag is used as a symbol of cultural expression in Puerto Rican folk art.

“The idea to document the Puerto Rican flag in all of its manifestations came to me when I moved back to New York City. The display of la bandera puertorriqueña is ubiquitous all year long, waving from car antennas, painted on wall murals, or draped from windows and fire escapes and car hoods,” said exhibition curator Elena Martínez. “¡Que bonita bandera! documents the creativity and passion with which the mainland Puerto Ricans express their connection to the flag.”

The exhibition features bobbin lace (mundillo), the traditional horned masks of the vejigante (a fantastic, colorful character introduced into carnival celebrations hundreds of years ago), contemporary color and historic black and white photographs, and urban memorial wall art.

Taking its title from a traditional children’s song sung to the rhythm of plena, this exhibition explores how the Puerto Rican flag represents the culture and essence of puertorriqueñidad (Puerto Rican-ness), while also being a strong source of pride and identity for those of Puerto Rican descent who were not born on the island.

“This exhibition will be an invaluable learning tool as we continue to interpret and present New Jersey’s diverse history to our audiences,” said Sally Yerkovich, President & CEO of The New Jersey Historical Society.

Art from the exhibition include works from Martha Cooper; Carlos Ortíz; El Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños at CUNY; Rosa Elena Egipciaco; Jorge Silva; Chico García; TATS Cru; George Zavala, and Francisco López.

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