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Art review: Sharon Lockhart at Blum and Poe

December 4, 2009 |  1:30 pm

400.Michael-Stufflebeam,-Maint From Lewis Hine to Irving Penn, photographs of workers have alternately exposed inhumane conditions and fostered nostalgia for "honest labor." In her latest exhibition at Blum and Poe, Sharon Lockhart puts a twist on this conflicted tradition, making portraits of the workers at a Maine shipyard by photographing their lunchboxes.

To their credit, the images don't evoke pity or sentimentalize labor. Instead they attempt to find examples of individual expression and play amid the dehumanizing conditions of industrial work.

Shot dead center on a neutral ground, each lunchbox is a microcosm of its owner's tastes and personality. Most are beat-up plastic coolers, although there are a few old-school metal boxes and a (surprisingly romantic) wooden picnic basket. Many bear decals professing allegiance to a union or military unit; one is almost completely covered in banana stickers, a personal diary of consumption.

These understated portraits are accompanied by a 40-minute video — a single, long, slow motion pan down a factory corridor during break time. The workers appear only on the edges of the image, squeezed onto wooden benches or picnic tables and dwarfed by industrial-strength lockers, snaking cords and glimpses of heavy machinery.

It's a dismal place to take a break, making Lockhart's lunchbox portraits seem like small interior worlds designed to stave off soul-numbing monotony. Yet her focus on the lunchboxes also reinforces the factory's emphasis on things over people. Although Lockhart skirts the more syrupy aspects of conventional portraiture, her images risk marginalizing the very workers they seek to represent.

– Sharon Mizota

Blum and Poe, 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 836-2062, through Jan. 9. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.blumandpoe.com

Image: Michael Stufflebeam, Maintenance Pipefitter, 2008. Credit: Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe.

Comments () | Archives (3)

Somone needs to get a job, and a life. I look outside of my computer areas and thats what I see, where I will be in a moment when I am loading up the printers. Some people are just too damn spoiled, that is NOT what creative art is or about. And you wonder why intelligent people dont give a damn about art anymore. They have been driven away but insipid, self absorbed, emasculated, effeminant wimpiness.

Art is by for and about the strong, of mind, body and soul, not the weak, as the meek have obviously taken over the "art scene". Art is made by workers, this mental based self absorbtion has nothing to do with work, or reality. No defining mankind, exploring nature, or searching for god, for meaning, for purpose. Instead we get children in search of Neverland. Sorry kids, its a fable, it doesnt exist. And if you try too hard to make one, you turn into Michael Jackson.

Another shining example
art collegia delenda est

thanks for warning me that the photos are, instead of portraits of objects, the photographer's editorial comments on "dehumanized" workers. wow, how patronizing is that? Met any glassy-eyed IT professionals lately, or journalists emerging from their cubicles and monitors? I have.

This lunch lady photograph my breakfast for a change of pace for one million dollars. Not even a laughable idea here. I'm so hungry for content. B and P are lost if they think this is going to pay for their new building. Ever the distance grows from something worthwhile in art.


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