Steven Brower

Jesse Dittmar

William Oberst

Tom Otterness

Karina Skvirsky

Scott Sternbach

Johanna Unzueta

Finding work

Representing labor in contemporary art

November 13, 2009 - January 13, 2010

Image by Scott Sternbach


In Courbet's Stone Breakers or iconic World War II poster Rosie the Riveter, we understand these laborers as individuals and part of larger forces of history to which they can contribute. The work and the workers are the subject, what is produced is the object. This has changed. Now, the object of labor is subjectified and manufacture is hidden. The maker has been replaced by the made. The object becomes the subject. A strange shift, really. Our protagonists are no longer saints, kings or workers but instead comics and Brillo boxes. Finding Work: Labor in Contemporary Art locates some reflections of labor in art and in so doing works to make clear the relationship of the individual to labor.

The artists in Finding Work look to locate labor and interrogate our assumptions surrounding work and how much of that process is hidden in plain sight. Among the many questions that arise are, Why is work hidden? What does this invisibility mean? The messy reality of manufacture may lack the luster of capitalism’s glow, its objects and trophies, but this labor is the essence of the very products that embody today’s economic and social world. In the imminent shadow of rising unemployment and continual exportation and disappearance of work in the U.S., the artists in Finding work make concrete a variety of issues in the landscape of labor.