Curated By Eunice Chen
Works by Simone Couto, Tianlan deng, Matthias Liechti, and W Teng
On view: February 23—March 02, 2022
CP Project Space
132 West 21st Street, 10th Floor, NY, 10011
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A Day Has 12 Coats
2 InkJet “Watercolor” Print on Japanese and Silk Thread
Paper, 11.7 x 16.5 inches
"Author: Anyway, Angela, what is it that you do?
Angela: I take care of life."
—A Breath of Life, By Clarice Lispector
Sometime in 2019, I found myself in a room with several boxes containing over 3000 membership cards of immigrants who joined La National for one reason or another. This 150-year-old benevolent society has supported Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Immigrants in Manhattan since the late 19th century. Every member must fill out a membership card, and I focused on the cards of the twenty-two female immigrants whose required 2 x 2 pictures were missing.
The majority of these faceless women wrote down that they worked as seamstresses. I believe they were working in the Garment District. In the first half of the century, the garment industry employed around forty-six percent of the city's industrial labor force. Its creation is considered one of the significant turning points in American urban planning and politics and has had enormous consequences in shaping New York City.
Like them, I am an immigrant, but I don't hold a needle and thread, nor do I sit at my sewing machine the way these women did—out of desperation to put bread on the table and lacking choices. I make art, and I thank them for creating the path for us in the 21st century. Nonetheless, we are are connected by labor, and I think of them with deep empathy when the corner of my index finger on my left hand bleeds from time to time from the countless repetitive hours of sewing.
A Day has 12 Coats pays homage to the women who shaped this country and traced its history—European and Latin American immigrants who arrived between two great wars, working low-paying jobs. To create these pieces, I asked myself: How do we turn perception into knowledge and then art while thinking more freely, beyond myself? I looked at the agencies within the object used by those immigrants and the workspace. I searched for their transformative potential. I thought of memory, reproduction, and the repetition of labor. Routine. I ran a photograph of an NYC garment shop going full force in an ordinary day and another of an early Singer sewing machine countless times through my regular printer until the image bled—and bled and bled again. Then, only then, I picked up my needle and stitched a remembrance of their legacy