10 Provocative Artworks for Labor Day, From a Bronze Union Rat to a Human Capitalist Pyramid

Detail of Diego Rivera's "Detroit industry" (1932-33) at the Detroit Institute of Arts
(Courtesy Detroit Institute of Arts)

This Labor Day, issues of class identity and workers' rights are more prevalent in American cultural discourse than they've been for decades. Between a presidential contest dominated by promises of economic recovery, the fast-approaching first anniversary of the biggest swell of class discontent the country has seen in decades, and a recession that continues to earn comparisons to the Great Depression, this year's holiday comes at an exceptionally poignant moment.

It should come as no surprise then — indeed, it was completely unintentional — that most of the artworks we've selected for this Labor Day slide show fall under one of the three aforementioned rubrics: class-coded electoral politics, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the Depression. Indeed, the art world's affiliation with the past year's protests, internal labor disputes like the Sotheby's art handlers' lockout, and its stake in the sinking economy and upcoming election (recall Mitt Romney's promise to end the NEA), make it an especially fitting venue in which these issues can be played out, investigated, and maybe even resolved. Here, then, are ten of ARTINFO's favorite artworks that engage labor issues.

 

To see our top 10 works of labor-themed art, click the slide show.

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