By Trent Morse
Partners & Spade is currently displaying hunks of Williamsburg history at its space on Great Jones Street. “The Vanishing Icons of Metropolitan Avenue: A History of Williamsburg’s Handmade Shop Signs from the 1980s,” curated by Karen Hudes, features three-dimensional signs that were once ubiquitous along Grand Street and Graham and Metropolitan Avenues. Hanging from the ceiling are cartoonish Styrofoam sculptures of an apple, a barber pole, a water tower, a cow’s head, and a phallic cigar with a pack of cigarettes.
Stanley Wisniewolski concocted the emblems as part of a community revitalization project spearheaded by St. Nick’s Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, where he worked as the resident graphic designer. Over seventy-five of the hand-carved and hand-painted signs had adorned local shops in the 1980s, bringing color and whimsy to the somewhat desolate area. Today, only two signs survive in their original element: a well-maintained hammer over Crest Hardware and a weathered Italian chef holding a pizza over Tony’s Pizza. Fortunately, Hudes has retrieved from the municipal archives a trove of color photographs showing the signs as they appeared in the 1980s, among them a camera over Metro Photo, a ketchup bottle over Thriftway Discount Center, a skeleton key over The Penny Saver, and a mortar and pestle over Napolitano Pharmacy. The exhibition originated at the City Reliquary, in Williamsburg, last spring and can be seen at Partners & Spade through October 31.
Partners & Spade, 40 Great Jones Street, Manhattan, (646) 861-2827 Hours: Saturday 12-7 PM and Sunday 12-6 PM