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The Hoboken Historical Museum presents two Exhibits by Christopher López

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originally published: 01/16/2023

The Hoboken Historical Museum presents two Exhibits by Christopher López

(HOBOKEN, NJ) -- The Hoboken Historical Museum presents two exhibits by photo-based artist and arts educator, Christopher López. "The Fires: Hoboken 1978-1982" shines a light on horrific events from Hoboken's early period of gentrification. This visual and oral history project will be on display in their Main Gallery. A companion installation "(UN)ERASED" will be on display in their Upper Gallery. Both exhibits open on Sunday, Sunday January 22 and an opening reception will take place that day at 2:00pm.

In the late 70s, as Hoboken became more desirable to ‘young urban professionals' who could afford to pay higher rents, there was a plague of fires in buildings that housed mostly Puerto Rican families. Nearly every fire, investigators determined, was the result of arson. This exhibit addresses many factors at play at that time. It highlights the fifty-six people, mostly children, who were killed and the eight thousand that were left homeless. The exhibit also features QR codes which allow visitors to hear survivors tell their own stories.

López says, "Gentrification remains a critical subject in small cities like Hoboken as well as on a global scale creating an epidemic of displacement and violence alongside ‘urban renewal'. The visceral ramifications of gentrification are evidenced throughout the living history of Hoboken. This project is a work in progress and will be the first to offer a thorough analysis of the intersecting histories that transformed the city from a working-class community to one of the most expensive and exclusive cities in New Jersey."

López's work is augmented by the contributions of humanities scholars Yomaira Figueroa-Vásquez, Ph.D. and Dylan Gottlieb, Ph.D.  Dr. Figueroa-Vásquez is a co-creator of The Diaspora Solidarities Lab, a multi-institutional Black feminist partnership that supports solidarity work in Black and Ethnic Studies. López says, "Yomaira grew up in Hoboken. We connected because of our shared interest in this history and the toll it took on the vast Puerto Rican community here. Yomaira is writing a book slated for release in 2024, and she will be dedicating a chapter to the fires. I'm honored to be working with her." Of Dylan Gottlieb, López says, "He wrote a very compelling essay on the history of the fires that was tremendously influential to me and really sparked all of the work you see today. But besides his essay, there is no history. My work aims to change that."

The companion installation "(UN)ERASED," uses both contemporary and appropriated archival imagery to construct a visual dialogue through collage that evidences the human toll that arson played on mostly migrant communities during Hoboken's gentrification. López says, "Stories have the potential to be erased depending on who is driving the narrative. In gentrified cities like Hoboken, it happens through this self-anointed position of pioneerism and the cultural appropriation of urban spaces. In its perversity, it picks and chooses the things it likes and discards the rest. The rest, in this case, are actual human lives. Gentrified cities are very cookie cutter and are not actually designed by people, but rather, by developers and banks to meet the demands of an upper tier consumerism. The palpable sense of community is no longer present. The creation of this absence is exacting in its design and predominant function, which is to rebrand a city's already existing cultural capital and replace it with a newer fiscal capital."



 
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Christopher López (b.1984), was born in The Bronx and was raised between New York and Northern New Jersey. He has been working as a visual artist since 2005. To date, many of his works have been made on the island of Puerto Rico. Often by exploring diminishing histories, his photographs celebrate the richness of culture as well as portray the complexities of identity both on and off the island. His work was most notably exhibited in the exhibition, "Caribbean; Crossroads of the World" which spanned three museums in New York City and showcased over 100 years of Caribbean art from the region's most prominent artists.

Christopher has been awarded fellowships at The Laundromat Project and The Diaspora Solidarities Lab. He is a current member of Diversify Photo, an initiative started to diversify the photography industry and has given lectures at Barnard College and Cornell University among others. His artworks are currently in the permanent collections of El Museo Del Barrio, The World Trade Center Memorial Museum, and The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

On Friday, January 20 at 7:00pm, López will be interviewed on the Museum's YouTube channel by Museum Director Bob Foster as part of their ongoing "Artist Talks" series. The exhibits will be complemented with additional events, the details of which will be announced.

"The Fires: Hoboken 1978-1982" was produced by Christopher López, in partnership with the Hoboken Historical Museum.

These exhibits were made possible with funds from The New Jersey Council for the Humanities, The Diaspora Solidarities Lab, and with support from a block grant from the State/County Partnership program for the Arts, administered by the Hudson County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.

The Hoboken Historical Museum is located at 1301 Hudson Street in Hoboken, New Jersey.







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Click here for full description

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