work > work/surface

This project is a collaboration with Matt Lynch, Matt having planned the idea of creating Formica laminate mosaics with me as the designer, as a way for us to get to work together, as well as tour factories, a favorite pastime. Uniting an innovative use of manufacturing technology and materials, his thing, with a tradition of mural-making, collage and 2D design, my thing, we revisit the 1933 glass mosaic murals depicting Cincinnati industries and their workers that Winold Reiss created for the Cincinnati Union Terminal. Instead of using glass tile, our murals are made of laser-cut Formica laminate. I design the images by making 4 foot square line drawings, roughly half the size of the final murals, and then designating Formica styles and colors for the thousands of shapes. The Reiss designs positioned male workers at the center, often in heroic poses, providing an idealized view of early twentieth century labor, as was typical of murals from that era. Like the 1933 Union Terminal Mosaics, we gather our reference material by visiting industries in and around Cincinnati. What is different is that our mosaics reflect the transformation that blue-collar work in the U.S. has undergone since the first half of the 20th century. Industrial labor today is characterized by stark differences and tensions, having become more automated (though not always less arduous), impersonal and precarious (at times unsupported by unions), on the one hand, yet also safer, and often more intellectually challenging and highly-skilled, on the other.