Artist Samson Contompasis brings the past back to life at News Apts. Ali Hibbs / TheSpot518
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TROY — When putting finishing touches on the new $23 million News Apartments at Fifth Avenue and Broadway, developer The Rosenblum Companies wanted to honor the history of the building that was home to The Record for more than a century.
The Albany artist they selected for the task has been memorializing local history for more than a decade, through his “Ghost City” project, which he began in 2008 in response to a feeling that much is being lost to later generations.
“Rather than mourning, this project is more about celebration,” said Samson Contompasis, who has completed “well over” 200 paintings in the series. “It’s making use of and bringing to light what used to be for our future purposes via paintings and things like that.”
Contompasis was also the creator of the Living Walls project in Albany and is responsible for the large murals that popped up on the sides of buildings in Albany in 2011. He said that project came with a series of daunting challenges from the city and credited The Rosenblum Companies for seeing the worth of investing in art and local artists.
“It’s very important to us that we don’t just acknowledge, but celebrate the history of the Troy Record and its staffers – editors, reporters, artists, photographers, pressman, composers, carriers and more who labored to catalogue life in this vibrant city,” said Rosenblum Executive Vice President Jeff Mirel. “To achieve this, we sought the help of local artists and artisans like Samson, whose ‘Ghost City’ project in particular made him the perfect choice to extrapolate historical photographs spanning a century that we had collected into something more immediate.”
A painting in the downstairs fitness room depicts two men loading the rolls of paper onto the press for printing—two men who were really there doing exactly that at some point in the building’s long history, on canvas in black and white vaguely reminiscent of Rorschach.
Contompasis calls it “abstract impressionistic figurative painting.”
“I design and paint these as if it were a memory,” he said. “You’re never going to remember every detail of a memory, no matter how vivid. So what I do is give your mind enough to put the rest together yourself. When you get up close to it, the image actually disappears and fractures and becomes these abstract shapes and marks. And when you back up, it becomes a complete and beautiful whole.”
The oldest part of the Troy Record building was constructed in 1906, with multiple additions added over the years. It was purchased by The Rosenblum Companies in September 2015 for $1.595 million. After more than a hundred years of occupancy, the newspaper had vacated the building just seven months earlier.
“The incredible outsized pieces [Contompasis] created are at once tribute to the past and, hopefully, inspiration for the next wave of Record Building occupants,” said Mirel.
The first tenants began moving in early this month, but not all the units are complete and not all 101 units are yet taken. Residents can choose from several floor plans, from studios to three-bedroom units, from $1,050 monthly. There will also be commercial space available on the building’s first floor, listed at $16 per square foot on The Rosenblum Companies website.
Tours are available by appointment. For more information, including applications, visit thenewsapartments.com or call (518) 224-8210.