‘Nice Work if You Can Get It’ looks at new economy

“Nice Work if You Can Get It,” an exhibition of work in all media by nine individual artists and two art collectives, explores how people have sustained themselves in a global economy since the 2008 financial crisis.

Video still

Still from “Octopus” by Yoshua Okón. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Opening reception June 27, 5-8 p.m.
On view June 27-Aug. 9; Tuesdays through Fridays 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturdays noon-6 p.m.

UIC Gallery 400
400 S. Peoria St.

The 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath changed Americans’ economic realities  and caused many to reconsider traditional concepts of labor, equity and exchange.

Gallery 400 director Lorelei Stewart curated this look into the relationships between labor, economy and politics. Artists explore the legacies of industry, immaterial labor, service work and invisible labor.

  • Ramón Miranda Beltrán juxtaposes a moment from the 1933 Chicago Teacher Revolt with the 2012 Chicago Teacher’s Union Strike.

    "Mother Goose's melody, or, Sonnets for the cradle" by Andrew Norman Wilson

    Image from “ScanOps” by Andrew Norman Wilson. (Click on image to enlarge.)

  • Arturo Hernández Alcázar explores value in the capitalist system by looking at recycling and reuse.
  • Melanie Gilligan’s video series centers on a personified Global Economy undergoing therapy after her meltdown.
  • The Ladydrawers transform research data into comics, posters, postcards, games and apparel, including comics-style reports on gender and labor.
  • Mary Lum uses paper  fragments stamped with the names of quality control inspectors to remind us of the human element behind industrialized production.
  • Yoshua Okón’s video, shot at a Los Angeles Home Depot, focuses on relationships among Guatemalan day laborers who fought on opposite sides of the Guatemalan civil war.
  • Pocket Guide to Hell’s posters and ephemera document the group’s labor history reenactments.
  • Ward Shelley plots the 20th-century shift from production- to consumer-oriented capitalism.
  • Karina Skvirsky looks at recent immigrants who work long hours at menial jobs for many years.
  • Pilvi Takala shows how to look after the odd member in a group, in this case a strange co-worker who disrupts workplace behavior patterns by spending her day doing nothing.
  • Andrew Norman Wilson reveals issues of class, race and labor through Google Books images in which software distortions, the scanning site and the hands of the book-scanning employees are visible.

Gallery 400 has planned additional events related to this exhibition, including a film screening, walking tour and lecture. All are free and open to the public.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” is one of a series of Gallery 400 exhibitions that explore shifts in industry and work, how and where economic exchange takes place, new models for sustainable economies, employment-driven migration, and relationships between place, work and economic viability. The series continues to develop through partnerships with community organizations, labor unions and artists.

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