“Work is about search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”
The quote at the entrance of the exhibition from Chicago Pulitzer Prize winner Studs Terkel perfectly sets the mood for this fantastic group expo examining the junctions between labor, effort, art and life through the artistic practices of nine different Chicago-based artists. The most American of American cities has always had the image of a blue-collar metropolis: just think of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a novel exposing the harsh conditions of workers in they city’s meatpacking district. And despite its growing art scene, impressive architecture and beautiful lakeshore, Chicago still somehow has this Midwest, working class feel to it. A city built on work, not on finance or around dreams, as writer Carl Sandburg put it. The nine exhibited artists all address the concept of work in their own different ways: Geof Oppenheimer’s “Embarassing Statue” juxtaposes symbols of artistry, blue-collar and white-collar work while Michelle Grabner’s paper weavings question the relationships between art and crafts as well as the romantic idea of an artist’s life. Theaster Gates, one of the stars at the last Documenta in Kassel and known for his commitment to revitalizing poor neighbourhoods with his artistic practice, contributed two installations referencing the Civil Rights struggles in the 60s and the issue of slavery, for example by incorporating a hose into his pieces brutally used for crowd control.
“The Works: Artists in and from Chicago” runs until Saturday, 27 June