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NOW: HESTER ST.

May 4 - May 30

ART AT WORK

Sanitation & Social Practice

Curatorial team:
Gabriela D’Addario
Eden Chinn

Exhibiting Artists:
Lily Cox-Richard
Jade Doskow
Brian Hutsebout
Hilary Pfeifer
Francesca Pfister
Mike Suri
Slinko
sTo Len
Kimberly Lakin
Mierle Laderman Ukeles


NEW YORK, NY – All Street Gallery is pleased to present Art at Work, a group exhibition celebrating public sanitation art, featuring Lily Cox-Richard, Jade Doskow, Brian Hutsebout, Kimberly Lakin,  sTo Len, Hilary Pfeifer, Francesca Pfister, Slinko, Mike Suri and Mierle Laderman Ukeles. The show brings together for the first time works made by artists-in-residence at municipal sanitation departments and waste facilities in four different U.S. cities—New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Portland, OR—between 2000 and 2020. Art at Work will be on view from May 4 - May 30, 2024 at All Street’s Chinatown location, 119 Hester Street. The opening reception will take place on Saturday, May 4, from 6 - 9 pm.

Drawing on the histories and discourses of discard studies, the environmental humanities, and social practice art, Art at Work and its supplemental materials seeks to confront questions about the civic responsibilities of artists and of art itself, and reflect an evolving aesthetics of environmentalism.

At sanitation residency programs, local waste agencies and utilities invite residents to make art  about and alongside the waste stream and its workers, often on-site at local dumps or transfer stations. These unusual residencies provide artists with space, stipends, and materials to support the creation of work that reflects the challenges and contours of urban waste management practices for a broad public. More than 200 artists have passed through these four programs since Mierle Laderman Ukeles (b. 1939) became the country’s first ever sanitation artist-in-residence, with the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), in 1977.

Inspired by Ukeles’ groundbreaking collaboration with DSNY and the career-defining work that she produced during her residency, other cities followed suit and established their own sanitation residency programs. Art at Work seeks to highlight the variety and creativity of the artwork these programs have inspired: sculpture and textile art sit alongside conceptual, video, and social practice works. Certain artists, like Hilary Pfeifer, Kimberly Lakin, and Mike Suri, have applied traditional craft techniques–woodworking, weaving, and metalsmithing–to transform previously discarded items into art objects with rich material histories. Francesca Pfister’s colorful cyanotype prints are a form of “visual archaeology,” documenting the shapes and textures of items found on the tipping floor, while allowing her to test her techniques on a variety of materials. 

Others seek to comment on the systems, processes, and labor of waste management. Slinko’s video essay The Grind is an abstract, sensorial reflection on the everyday sights and sounds at a recycling facility, whose intimate point-of-view from among trash heaps and heavy machinery hints at a remarkable characteristic of these residences: they require access to, and cooperation from, large teams engaged in dangerous, time-sensitive and essential labor. 

sTo Len, whose prolific print-making and archival video work as the 2021-2022 Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) for NYC Sanitation has been much discussed, presents a lesser-known participatory work from his time with the Department: The Privy Pit, a project that offers 50 different prompts for viewers to complete, aimed at creating more intimacy between participants and their garbage. sTo’s diffuse, democratic works suggest that art-making can be as accessible as making trash–and that a subject as vast as waste might require different approaches to creative interpretation. The PAIR program, run by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, embeds artists in multiple city agencies each year and is directly inspired by Mierle Ukeles’ work with Sanitation.

And Ukeles, of course, is present here too. A 1984 video captures what is likely her most famous intervention with DSNY: Touch Sanitation, a durational performance for which the artist shook hands with every single sanitation worker in the Department, some 8,500 men at the time, over the course of a year. The performance required intensive research and preparation, and to complete it Ukeles thrust herself into the gears of a gigantic municipal apparatus, meeting sanitation workers along their routes over the course of her own eight- and sixteen-hour shifts. 

Ukeles still holds the title of DSNY artist-in-residence, and her most recent project with the Department proposes an experiential landwork sited at Freshkills, the former New York City landfill (and world’s largest) whose transformation into a public park is underway. Alongside engineering images of Freshkills curated by Ukeles to inform her project, we see the expansive, bucolic photography of Jade Doskow, who has been photographing the landfill-cum-park since 2018 and assumed the role of Photographer-in-Residence in 2021. Doskow’s large format prints capture the “new wilderness” of this landscape, which, though entirely man-made–its undulating topography the result of 150 million tons of garbage underfoot, capped over with layers of plastic–has nevertheless sprouted its own ecologies since its closure in 2001. Doskow’s durational engagement with the park places her squarely in the tradition of Ukeles, and her interpretations help to contextualize the monumental transformation of the land, itself a feat of engineering, restoration and design, within a long history of American landscape photography, Westward expansion and New York City’s infrastructural development.

Individually, each of these works marshals techniques of creative reuse and aesthetic interpretation that reveal waste materials, systems, and laborers to be worthy of public consideration and appreciation. As a group, however, the works gesture to something broader: for public and private waste management institutions to invite ongoing and multiple artistic interventions that engage with their own infrastructures suggests that the methods, approaches and very presence of the artist, independent of the objects they produce, are of value in these civic and industrial contexts. Over the course of regular daily interactions, artists and waste workers become unlikely collaborators in a workplace drama, learning from and informing one another. This exchange occurs independently of the objects and performances displayed as the final product of the residencies.

The residencies help shape public perception about sanitation, and vice versa: for the thousands of workers on these municipal teams, the presence of an artist observing and finding aesthetic inspiration in what they do indicates that their work has cultural value. The works collected here may inspire viewers to reconsider their personal relationship to their own waste. They set an example of using care as a praxis in the face of seemingly insurmountable environmental problems. Taking time to apply slow craft to discarded objects, and working to render visible an experience of aestheticism, joy, and feeling, is an act of radical hope.

An accompanying zine, functioning as an exhibition catalog, attempts to give form to the relational dimension of the residencies. Alongside works of art, we see art at work: process photos depict artists clad in neon safety gear as they confront the otherworldly landscapes of the transfer station, scavenging for materials and seeking inspiration. Archival documents tell the origin stories of each residency, which often begin with the spark of an idea between a few bold individuals, but eventually require the cooperation of huge teams engaged in dangerous, time-sensitive and complex labor. It is remarkable that these programs exist at all, and yet today they are among the oldest incubators of civic practice art in America.
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About All Street Gallery:
Founded in 2018, All Street Gallery presents works by emerging and underrepresented artists whose works demonstrate social engagement and community empowerment. First established as an artist collective and grassroots organization by born and raised New Yorkers, All Street is a space that is both created by and for artists and their communities. Having deep roots in New York City, the gallery and collective share a background in public art and activations as a means of creative resistance. Such socially engaged work has carried into their two gallery spaces at 77 East Third Street and 119 Hester Street.

Website: www.allstnyc.com Instagram: @all.st.nyc


For press and sales inquiries, please contact:
Eden Chinn
gallery@allstnyc.com


Funding has been made possible by The Puffin Foundation, Ltd.




Opening Reception 5.4

Installation Shots