Photo Credit:

Manuel Matias: Alphabet City Chronicles

On view through August 18, 2024

Manuel Matias was born in Puerto Rico and raised on New York City’s Lower East Side in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when drug addiction and violence made daily life a struggle. For Matias, art provided solace from the chaos that swirled around him. He remembers drawing on the walls of his apartment while waiting for his parents to come home and he remembers the attention of friends and neighbors who recognized his talent. Besides filling countless sketchbooks with graffiti designs, he also designed flyers for a neighbor’s hair-braiding business.

Matias is now a parent himself. He often reflects on the dizzying process of gentrification in his old neighborhood that has now displaced most of his neighbors and replaced the corner bodegas and record stores with artisanal markets and luxury boutiques. In 2019, Matias turned to creating miniature tableaus of these disappearing streetscapes. His tiny replica of a hyperrealistic garbage can that conjured the sights (and smells) of his childhood was the first of an ever-expanding series of sculptures that grow from kernels of memory embellished with humor, activism, and wry social commentary. Alphabet City Chronicles invites viewers both to imagine entering Matias’ miniature worlds and to reflect on their own memories and experiences.

The Everson is supported by the Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman Foundation; the General Operating Support program, a regrant program of the County of Onondaga with the support of County Executive, J. Ryan McMahon II, and the Onondaga County Legislature, administered by CNY Arts; and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

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