August 10, 2022

Zimmerli to Debut Jersey City Museum Collection

“LOTTO: THE AMERICAN DREAM”: This work by Luis Cruz Azaceta is featured in “American Stories: Gifts from the Jersey City Museum Collection,” on view September 1 through December 30 at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. An opening celebration will be held on Thursday, September 8 from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

This fall, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University-New Brunswick debuts a major addition to its permanent collection that offers a variety of perspectives on American art and life through a regional lens. 

“American Stories: Gifts from the Jersey City Museum Collection,” on view from September 1 to December 30, features nearly 100 paintings, prints, photographs, and sculptures. The public is invited to a free opening celebration at SparkNight on September 8 from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to share this collection with the public,” said Maura Reilly, director of the Zimmerli. “It includes work by some of the most important artists of the past six decades — Emma Amos, Dawoud Bey, Chakaia Booker, Mel Edwards, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and others — which, when combined with our stellar American art collection, provides a more comprehensive picture of American art and society.”

The Zimmerli in 2018 expanded the scope of its Art of the Americas holdings by accepting the collection from the Jersey City Museum, which closed in 2012. This exhibition is an introduction to more than 80 artists from that collection. One of the most poignant works is Luis Cruz Azaceta’s 1992 print Lotto: The American Dream, foreshadowing today’s daily headlines about income inequality and the precarious financial conditions of so many Americans.

Other works in the exhibition include a selection of prints made at the workshop of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña during the 1960s and 1970s; Big Daddy Draped (1971), a classic feminist and anti-war painting from the Big Daddy series by May Stevens; David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (red head on world map), a 1982 painting that is a vivid meditation on the individual’s relation and responsibility to a global community; and Juan Sanchez’s 1992 print Para Don Pedro, which associates the image of Pedro Albizu Campos, the hero of the Puerto Rican independence movement, with traditional religious imagery of martyrdom.

In addition, the exhibition includes a re-creation of Sheila Pepe’s Tunnel (2005), an installation of shoelaces and nautical rope that references the mostly immigrant laborers who dug the tunnels between New Jersey and New York, as well as those who commuted through them to work in the city’s factories. 

On October 13, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., the public is invited to a conversation between Pepe and Reilly as they discuss the artist’s work and the exhibition.

“American Stories” also presents an opportunity for the Zimmerli to collaborate with the Public History Program in the history department at Rutgers–New Brunswick. Undergraduate students researched the artists and composed exhibition labels, which will be in English and Spanish throughout the galleries.

In addition, the Zimmerli features two exhibitions drawn from the historical aspect of the newly acquired collection: “Picturing Jersey City: Nineteenth-Century Views by August Will” and “Beauty Among the Ordinary Things: The Photographs of William Armbruster.”

Both Will (1834-1910) and Armbruster (1865-1955) were important in the formative years of the Jersey City Museum. They documented the city as it rapidly developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Will chronicled the changing landscape of his adopted hometown and visually traced its transformation into an urban center, while Armbruster captured the region’s disappearing pastoral landscapes, nostalgically envisioning a pre-industrial life.

The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street) on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Admission is free. It is open Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday, as well as major holidays and the month of August.

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