Essential Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has reframed how we characterize the intrinsic nature of work. Under lockdown, our worlds became comparatively microcosmic. For some, the home became central to the performance of the “outside world,” eroding boundaries between public and private spheres. Those working outside the home, on the other hand, faced questions of calculated risk and survival every day.

“Essential work” and “essential worker” became household terms, exposing long-standing fissures in the labor we undertake, its relative protections, and its treatment of different demographics. Today, we find ourselves amidst a changing labor landscape marked by new standards for work/life balance, the Great Resignation, resurgent movements towards unionization, supply chain shortages, and “quiet quitting.”

Essential Work brings together a diverse group of international artists to examine these questions of labor and value. Together, they posit artwork as essential to our society as it seeks new ways to connect, communicate, and understand our world.

The exhibition features work by Amy Hicks, Rose Lowder, Nicole McLaughlin, Warren Neidich, Fernando Orellana, Ruth Prieto Arenas, and Rebecca Szeto.