The Nobility of Work is a site-specific permanent installation by Barbara Mensch drawn from her photographs made during the 1980’s on the waterfront in lower Manhattan. This project was commissioned by the Howard Hughes Corporation and celebrity chef Jean- Georges for the new Tin Building, located on the site of the former Fulton Fish Market below the Brooklyn Bridge. For over two hundred years this market was crucial to the operations of the East River waterfront making New York City into the most powerful mercantile center in the country.
The installation called for dynamic ways to capture the attention of visitors as they entered and exited this public space. Mensch’s original negatives, mostly shot with her favored Rolleiflex camera, were reconsidered in digital format for three large walls of electronic screens of various sizes and configurations.
“ We pored over hundreds of images to find the pictures that were not only visually compelling, but also rich in content to tell a complete story. This activity brought me back to my fascination with artists of the Renaissance who encountered similar challenges creating their panel paintings, stained glass windows and wall frescoes within predetermined guidelines. The introduction of electronic screens allowed me to explore a sensibility I have always had for cinema. Working with videographer Roger Guillen, we choreographed each image and wall sequence to tell a “story within a story”, communicating time and movement.”
Mensch worked with artist Claire Gilliam to assemble several different thematic storyboards: portraits of the men who worked night after night in the Fulton Fish Market ; their working environment and the customers they served.
Another series of screens reveal the words of the workers themselves: stories and philosophies compiled by Mensch when the original pictures were created. Mensch asked Gilliam, whose latest body of work visually explores the concept of language within society, to design the wall.
Two large Dibond prints of the original Tin Building interior set the stage for the moving images on the adjacent walls.
The exhibition is open to the public and will be on view as a permanent installation.
Tin Building address : 96 South Street New York City 10038 USA Gallery Hours 1P.M. to 10 P.M.
With the additional participation of :
Laumont Photographics and Roger Guillen, videographer