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Work Ethic


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ContentsForewordLenders to the ExhibitionAcknowledgmentsIntroductionEssays1. Work EthicHelen Molesworth2. Reluctant Witness: Photography and the Documentation of 1960s and 1970s ArtDarsie Alexander3. Herbie Goes Bananas: Fantasies of Leisure and Labor from the New Left to the New EconomyChris Gilbert4. Exchange Rate: On Obligation and Reciprocity in Some Art of the 1960s and AfterMiwon KwonCatalogue5. The Artist as Manager and Worker: The Artist Creates and Completes a Task6. The Artist as Manager: The Artist Sets a Task for Others to Complete7. The Artist as Experience Maker: The Audience Completes the Work 8. Quitting Time: The Artist Tries Not to Work Checklist of the ExhibitionContributors' NotesSelected Bibliography IndexPhoto Credits

About the Author

Helen Molesworth is Chief Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts.Darsie Alexander is Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photography at The Baltimore Museum of Art.Chris Gilbert is Associate Curator at the Des Moines Center for the Arts. Miwon Kwon is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles.


"The rich array of work by nearly fifty artists demonstrates how they have adopted administrative capacities and managerial identities, and favored conceptual processes over manual production, enacting modernity's paradigmatic shifts in labor. . . . Can art ever advance work's stoppage, or do its attempts result only in further refinements of products and markets? Leaving this question to the viewer's labor, Work Ethic succeeded in comprehending a significant field of recent artistic practice, casting an extremely diverse grouping of work within a unified but effectively complicated logic."-T. J. Demos, Artforum

"Work Ethic develops a genuinely new way of looking at the proliferation of new procedures for generating art in the 1960s by focusing on the changed organization of work in society at large at the time. The new forms of artistic practice are not seen simply as reflecting broader socio-economic changes, but rather as commenting on and ironizing the pervasive restructuring of work practices that had been taking place in the capitalist West. The shift away from traditional forms of painting and sculpture is usually understood in terms of a dematerialization or negation of the art object, resulting in work that is not readily commodifiable. Here, by contrast, the focus is not on the constitution or de-constitution of the object as such, but rather on changes in processes of production and consumption occurring outside as well as inside the art world."-Alex Potts, University of Michigan

"Work Ethic develops a genuinely new way of looking at the proliferation of new procedures for generating art in the 1960s by focusing on the changed organization of work in society at large at the time."-Alex Potts, University of Michigan

"This catalogue, which includes stimulating essays as well as sustained catalogue entries on exhibited artists, is ambitious indeed. It attempts nothing less than a revision of how we understand the cataclysmic changes in art production during the 1960s. Curator Helen Molesworth proposes that what has often been called the 'dematerialization' of the artwork should be understood as a new relationship between the artist and her or his labor. In short, with the development of a new 'post-industrial' economic paradigm, Molesworth argues, artists began to put pressure on the socially charged bifurcation between manager and laborer in new ways. Most interestingly, in lieu of romantic notions of singular creativity, the artist began to divide into both worker and manager, and the work of art, to some degree, became the residue of this contradiction. . . . It is laudable and significant that this catalogue includes intelligent entries on the works of important exhibiting artists."-David Joselit, Yale University

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