“The residue of labor, which usually remains unseen, is a summation of minute tasks of everyday repetition that are required for production and equate to the steady degradation of once enduring objects, equipment, architecture, and communities.” — Chris Larson
ENGAGE Projects is pleased to present The Residue of Labor, a solo exhibition by St. Paul-based multimedia artist Chris Larson, opening April 8, 2022. Initially funded by the Guggenheim Foundation, Larson’s exhibition is the culmination of three years of research of an abandoned, rural American garment factory that once sewed for brands such as Ralph Lauren, Burberry, and others.
Rooted in the relationships between individual and architecture, body and machine, Chris Larson contemplates a history of human labor that has steadily faded from many rural communities. Through the conduit of a closed-down garment factory in Tennessee, Larson creates an archival body of work from forgotten objects, transforming them into something beautiful. The comprehensive exhibition on view in two locations, ENGAGE Projects and an off-site raw warehouse space, includes 55 unique works of art ranging from sculpture, video, drawing, painting, and photography. Larson’s oeuvre of contemporary installation stands alone in its unparalleled intimacy with labor, embedded in the very
architecture of this site-specific research.
To create the Thread Works series, Larson built a foot treadle-operated machine to wrap canvases vertically in thread with the precision of high technology and the randomness of human-generated frequency. Despite their mechanical inceptions, the indivisibility of the hand from these works starkly contrasts the connotations of mass production they carry.
In Thread Room (2022) viewers walk through an industrial room enveloped entirely in thousands of shelved spools of thread. Arranged by color to mimic light filtering into a room, the installation functions as a library of labor that evidences the massive amount of work unceremoniously taken from rural communities when garment labor became predominantly outsourced in the late 90s. The shallow shelving becomes analogous to the low basement ceilings of the factory and the spools to workers creating an immersive architectural work.
Using time cards and thread recovered from the abandoned garment factory, Larson’s Timecard (2021) series replicates the residue of labor by creating depth through erasure. These works bear the weight of exertion in their charged materiality and fatigued treatment. A motif of his practice, Larson uses rotary tools to emulate the effacing of history by removing material on the surface of each piece.
Larson’s video, The Stillness of Labor (2022), uses disorientation to animate the mundanities of labor. Through the recreation of 12 full-scale rooms that mirror the environments of the garment factory, Larson exhibits a work style parallel to the utilitarian architecture of the factory; the always-developing workspace and its unique customization to each worker creates a palpable absence of the human body that is evident in its recreation.
Larson is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Minnesota. Since receiving his MFA in sculpture from
Yale University in 1991, Larson has received numerous awards including a New Work Project Grant from The Harpo Foundation, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, and most recently a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship. Larson has had solo exhibitions at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN, Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, NY, The View Contemporary Art Space in Switzerland, and his work was included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. In 2018, Larson’s work was included in the 11th Bienal do Mercosul in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and a solo 10-year survey exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, OH. Upcoming exhibitions include Saudi Arabia (2021), Berlin (2021), and Chicago (2022). In 2019, he co-founded Second Shift Studio Space of St. Paul, a nonprofit residency program and gallery serving artists/makers/ thinkers who are marginalized as a result of their gender identity.
ENGAGE Projects @ 864 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 Off site warehouse @ 401 N Paulina St, Chicago, IL 60622
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THE RESIDUE OF LABOR
Friday, April 8 – Saturday, June 25, 2022