Expired NYC, currently on view at Castle Fitzjohns gallery on the Lower East Side, is an exhibit of artist Conrad Stojak’s upcycled parking meters. Stojak calls the iconic meters “reliquaries containing memories of my life.” They house dioramas of New York moments, from a celebration of punk rock at legendary club CBGBs to a tiny Jackson Pollack painting a masterpiece.
Stojak originated the concept three years ago when he turned ugly broken parking meters in his neighborhood into street art. He worked through the night to create his dioramas. “Usually the guts of the meters were removed by the parking authority, so I was just working with the shells. And they only lasted a couple of days because people would steal or deface them.” Eventually he decided to turn the temporary works into something more permanent. He contacted the city to find out what was happening to the meters once they were removed from the street. The city was selling the meters in lots of 20,000 pieces. Conrad says, “I told them there was no way I could use 20,000 parking meters. I mean, those things are heavy.” Eventually he convinced them to donate a much smaller quantity.
Stojak cuts the heavy shells open in order to build the dioramas inside, then reassembles the meters. He paints them in a mix of spray paint and enamel. Some of the meters have many layers of paint. The dioramas are created mostly from tiny figures from model train kits that he buys online. Some contain found objects. In addition, Stojak found an online source for the glass domes.
Memories of New York
Says Stojak, “They are very personal, and represent my memories of New York. They show my favorite artists, movies, as well as the experiences I had growing up here.” The 34 meters include tributes to Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup can, Jackson Pollack, and Rockefeller Center. Additionally, some of the meters feature bi-level dioramas that descend into the body and are viewable through a window. And some, like the Studio 54 tribute, have moving parts and lights. “I found the perfect size disco ball for that one,” he says. For the Pollack tribute, Stojak watched videos of the artist at work and replicated his technique for the surface. He took the Venom meter to a friend’s place upstate and shot a couple of real bullet holes in the face.
“I love mixed media and assemblage, and that is what I do. These meters are such a part of growing up in the city, and they are pieces of art in their own way.”
Expired, NYC is open through October 30, 2018; castlefitzjohns.com