Carnegie Museum of Art presents Working Thought

February 2, 2022

35 contemporary artists and filmmakers consider economic inequality and labor in a new group exhibition opening March 5 and running through June 26, 2022

From March 5 to June 26, 2022, Carnegie Museum of Art presents Working Thought, a major group exhibition that examines the role of contemporary artists to consider and question the many ways economic inequality and labor have shaped American life past and present. Curated by Eric Crosby, the museum’s Henry J. Heinz II Director, Working Thought showcases contemporary artwork across media and generations, highlighting connections between diverse artistic practices. Through various programs, the exhibition provides a platform for discussion, inviting museum visitors to reflect on their own lived experiences through the works on view. A film series, presenting the work of five filmmakers, will also be an integral part of the exhibition.

Working Thought features works by 35 established and mid-career contemporary artists and filmmakers, including Fred Lonidier, who merges strategies of conceptual photography with activism; Margarita Cabrera, whose work invites the collaboration and involvement of immigrant communities; and Jessica Jackson Hutchins, whose kiln-fused glass works respond to contemporary social issues, in addition to works by Theaster Gates, Rodney McMillian, Jessica Vaughn, Andrea Bowers, and many others.

A combination of new commissions and loans are presented alongside works from the museum’s collection, positioning the collection in a new light and within the context of the history of Pittsburgh as a capital of industry. Many recent acquisitions on display will be on view at the museum for the first time, including Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s Trade Canoe: The Surrounded (2018) and works by Cameron Rowland, Moyra Davey, and Jill Freedman.

The exhibition probes the connections between art, economy, and labor within the larger historical relationship between Carnegie Museum of Art, Andrew Carnegie, and the city of Pittsburgh. The museum’s origins can be traced to 1886 with Andrew Carnegie’s initial concept: a museum that would “bring the world” to the people of Pittsburgh, particularly those who worked in the steel magnate’s empire. Traces of this dedication to industry and toil can still be seen today in John White Alexander’s mural The Crowning of Labor surrounding the 1907 Grand Staircase.  
“Carnegie Museum of Art is a readymade frame for Working Thought, and the exhibition is intended to take root here in site-specific ways. When I moved to Pittsburgh in 2015, I was struck by how present the city’s deep history of industry was not only in the built environment but also in the museum itself,” says Eric Crosby. “I hope the diverse range of artists and artworks featured in Working Thought will provide multiple points of entry into the timely and relevant social issues that the show addresses, shedding light on the power of art to challenge our most deeply seated assumptions.”

As part of Working Thought, five independent films will be screened in the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater. Each film will be introduced by a local expert whose background engages with the topic of that film. Screening dates and times and film names and directors can be found here:

A May Day (International Workers’ Day) celebration will also accompany the exhibition and provide a platform for discussion on art’s capacity to illuminate and reframe past and present conditions of economic inequality and labor. On April 21, 2022, from 6–8 p.m. in the museum’s Hall of Architecture and throughout the Working Thought galleries, various artists and the museum’s curators will come together for a public celebration of the exhibition. The evening will feature contemporary interpretations of work songs by regional musicians. On April 23, 2022, beginning at 10:30 a.m., artists in the exhibition, in partnership with community organizations, will lead public artmaking workshops throughout the museum in preparation for May Day.

The exhibition will also include an In Conversation series of events taking place featuring special guest speakers at Carnegie Museum of Art’s Theatre. This series will also be live streamed for virtual audiences to enjoy.