One of the typical measures of success for artists is the ability to quit their day jobs and focus full time on making art. Yet these roles are not always an impediment to an artist’s career. This exhibition illuminates how day jobs can spur creative growth by providing artists with unexpected new materials and methods, working knowledge of a specific industry that becomes an area of artistic interest or critique, or a predictable structure that opens space for unpredictable ideas. As artist and lawyer Ragen Moss states:
Typologies of thought are more interrelated than bulky categories like ‘lawyer’ or ‘artist’ allow. . . Creativity is not displaced by other manners of thinking; but rather, creativity runs alongside, with, into, and sometimes from other manners of thinking.
Day Jobs, the first major exhibition to examine the overlooked impact of day jobs on the visual arts, is dedicated to demystifying artistic production and upending the stubborn myth of the artist sequestered in their studio, waiting for inspiration to strike. The exhibition will make clear that much of what has determined the course of modern and contemporary art history are unexpected moments spurred by pragmatic choices rather than dramatic epiphanies. Conceived as a corrective to the field of art history, the exhibition also encourages us to more openly acknowledge the precarious and generative ways that economic and creative pursuits are intertwined.
The exhibition will feature work produced in the United States after World War II by artists who have been employed in a host of part- and full-time roles: dishwasher, furniture maker, graphic designer, hairstylist, ICU nurse, lawyer, and nanny–and in several cases, as employees of large companies such as Condé Nast, Ford Motors, H-E-B Grocery, and IKEA. The exhibition will include approximately 75 works in a broad range of media by emerging and established artists such as Emma Amos, Genesis Belanger, Larry Bell, Mark Bradford, Lenka Clayton, Jeffrey Gibson, Ramiro Gomez (now Jay Lynn Gomez), Tishan Hsu, VLM (Virginia Lee Montgomery), Ragen Moss, Howardena Pindell, Chuck Ramirez, Robert Ryman, and Fred Wilson, among many others. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring artist essays commissioned for the book, as well as a podcast, giving artists agency in telling their stories about the compelling intersections between their day jobs and creative practices.
Organized by Veronica Roberts, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, with Lynne Maphies, Curatorial Assistant, Blanton Museum of Art
Violette Bule, Dream America, 2015. Two framed photographs, 36 x 30 in. (each). Courtesy of the artist