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Posted by on July 16, 2012

AO On Site - New York: The Bruce High Quality Foundation 'Art History With Labor' at The Lever House, Through September 28, 2012

AO On Site - New York: The Bruce High Quality Foundation 'Art History With Labor' at The Lever House, Through September 28, 2012
Photo: Courtesy Lever House Art Collection and Jesse David Harris, Photographer

Written by G. Corrigan on July 16, 2012 for Art Observed

In keeping with their aspirations to “invest the experience of public space with wonder,” The Bruce High Quality Foundation is currently exhibiting Art History With Labor in New York’s Lever House Art Collection through September 28th. The exhibit consists of three pieces on display in the open-air courtyard and the glass-walled lobby of the Lever House.

Double Iwo Jima, 2012

The cast-bronze shell of “The New Colossus” stands guard outside: it is a twelve-foot rat, the dimensions modeled after the inflatable icon of American labor unions used to protest the use of strikebreakers. Solidifying the image in the more permanent casing, the artists create a smooth, sleek, industrial image that recalls the very mechanization it originally mocked.

The New Colossus, 2012

Inside, the immaculate marble and red-roped lobby is littered with overturned file cabinets, dangling loose wires, and an assortment of jerry-rigged home appliances that make up “Art History With Labor: 95 Theses.” Martin Luther’s nail has been transformed to accommodate the physical history of art’s relationship to labor movements. A video screen plays back the Foundation’s modernized theses, a soundtrack of ninety-five call-and-response ruminations on the industrialized workforce. The voices fill the lobby, providing the sheer corporate space with lines that alternately satirize and lionize its subject matter: number two reiterates Al Capp’s proclamation that “anyone who can walk to the welfare office can walk to work,” just as anyone who can raise a flag can do it twice.

Art History With Labor, 2012

“Double Iwo Jima” is a two-paneled silkscreened painting of America’s most famous wartime image. The flag hoisted on Mt. Suribachi in 1945 was actually raised twice, the photo recreated after the first flag was deemed to small to be seen by ships docking at the nearby beach. The artists recall Andy Warhol’s pop sensibility by laying bare the repetition and mechanization required to achieve the desired effect, simultaneously alluding to the assembly-line production inherent to the silkscreen medium.

Installation view

The New Colossus, 2012

All images courtesy of The Lever House Art Collection
Photographer: Jesse David Harris