Lisa Cooley presents On What Remains, Part Two, the second of two related solo exhibitions by Fiona Connor.
For On What Remains, Part One (2015), Connor installed in the gallery an exacting, working replica of a drinking fountain found in New York’s Tompkins Square Park. On What Remains, Part Two, also features a single sculpture—two joined walls that normally physically connect the backs of the buildings at 120 Essex Street and 107 Norfolk Street in New York’s Lower East Side. One side of the sculpture depicts the boundary of Essex Street Market occupied by Formaggio Kitchen, a specialty cheese shop. The opposite side depicts the back wall of Lisa Cooley’s west gallery.
These two adjoining walls have lived in tandem for about 75 years. The building at 107 Norfolk Street was constructed at the beginning of the twentieth century, first to house the Hirsch Wine Company and then, from 1948 to 1997, the Royal Kedem Wine Corporation, one of America’s largest kosher vintners. From 1998 to 2009, 107 Norfolk Street was home to Tonic, a music venue specializing in experimental rock and jazz. Lisa Cooley moved into the space in 2012 and renovated it, adding another layer of construction. The adjoining structure at 120 Essex Street was built in 1940, one in a string of municipal food halls established by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia to relocate food vendors indoors. Recently, Essex Street Market has been marked for demolition and will be relocated across the street in a six-acre mixed-use development called Essex Crossing. The building that currently houses the market will be torn down.
As in the first part of On What Remains, Connor reworks a structure and context from the built environment to create a sculpture that explores presence and disappearance. The gallery’s wall is meant to function only as a neutral frame, support, or border for art, yet Connor highlights it as an object of investigation. On the other side, the cheese store’s wall appears within the gallery space, but foreshadows the eventual physical disappearance of the market. Seen across these layers of history, Connor’s sculpture presents a 75-year record of accumulated use and social change.