Jill Magid reflects on work and value at The Modern

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when daily news dominated the death toll and the world abruptly closed, a man’s announcement on television inspired artist Jill Magid.

“The body was already so fragile,” she remembered him. Yet an unnamed commentator did not mean a physical body. He meant economics.

“I like the metaphor that you have what this phrase suggests: everything has always been good, but it was a myth. Everything was already bad, “said the New York artist.

The phrase became the starting point for Offer, her contract for 2020 from the New York public art group Creative Time. The massive project follows the circulation of 120,000 pennies with a declaration etched on the edge that begins in bodegas across New York City, where he lives. (120,000 pennies is the equivalent of $ 1,200 stimulus checks sent to all Americans to support the economy; the smooth edge of the penny has made it the most practical choice of all coins.) Creative Time called the project the most ambitious yet because its lifespan, like the coins, would could take 40 years.

The exhibition exhibits works from a massive public work of art, including sculptures and film FOCUS: Jill Magid at the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, which runs until March 20.


Associate curator Alison Hearst, who organizes the museum’s FOCUS series on contemporary artists, said Magid asked questions about value, economics and human life.

She used coins because, like cash and unlike credit and debit cards, they are tangible items; everyone who uses them affects them. Circulation is a system that Magid studies and often interferes with.

“Penny represent the body in all its forms and the body,” Magid said. “Political body, economy, government and individual coin-holding body” are at the heart of the project.

She argued that small, independent expenses are essential businesses that everyone uses, regardless of socio-economic status. In the eyes of the public, they are crucial. But the public and the government are different. In the case of the Federal Reserve and the US Mint, which distributes new coins, wineries and other businesses receive coins after they have been put into circulation. They are peripheral.

She wanted to turn it around. By adding his own work to the coins and deciding to distribute them first in the bodegas, he questions how this process changes the value of money and the value of the work itself.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, pennies appear in works such as the statue Tender Box (2020), a small cardboard box with 50 rolls of engraved unused pennies representing a public work of art.

“I like the box that it is presented in a different way. What I am showing is conceptual. The sculptural presence is an item in itself, “she said. Tender Box and other works are separated from the project itself and created after distribution.

in Ballistic bag 2020 cents / US Mint, worth $ 4,000, partially dispersed (2020), pennies weigh a bag in a steel pallet borrowed from the US Mint. “These functional items were temporarily out of circulation and stopped here at the museum,” Hearst said.

Magid also reimagines a 1942 war experiment with glass groschen, some of which were made with uranium, while copper was used for ammunition. that bit Pennies pattern, also from 2020, is a wall cabinet with glass coins shining under black light.

28-minute video Offer balance (2020) tracks the distribution of pennies, focusing on the individual shifts and images that defined the pandemic, including a refrigerated morgue car set at the original spooky score in the background.

Recent works, such as Bodega flowers (2021), consider the role of the necessary staff. This is an installation of freshly cut flowers wrapped in cellophane, which are sold outside stores. As she pondered the wineries and flowers, she considered how agricultural workers were considered necessary work. “Flowers evoke joy and sadness. During the isolation of the national lock, the flowers could brighten someone’s day and serve as a way to commemorate someone who died of COVID-19. In my opinion, flowers are a public good, “said Magid.

With Labor Days, a work of drawings and sculptural installations from 2021, complementing the themes in Tender, she rethought the work and whose work is valued. Just as it was put on coins, it is put into the formal statements of the federal government, which are in the federal register. In the government’s official journal of agency rules, statements and other bureaucratic documents published every weekday, Magid discovered two similar presidential statements issued on two different Labor Holidays. The first was from former President Donald Trump, who thanked key workers for their work, without mentioning the pandemic. The second was a similar statement by President Joe Biden. She replicated them and drew the words by hand on the resulting six-foot-tall works. Every hour she documented her birth on the fringes. The resulting work is a documentation of her work in these presidential gestures, an act so large and similar to spending pennies in a wine bar.

The frightening, powerful and complex, intertwined show is a “poetic reflection on value,” Hearst said.


David Berry

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