Post It! A Living History of New Deal Post Offices
Benjamin Bromberg Gaber + Sarah Shapiro December 2 - December 30, 2018
Manistique, MI,49854, Postcard, digital photo printed on a photo paper, front and back, 6 x 4 in.
BAAA Gallery is pleased to present Benjamin Bromberg Gaber + Sarah Shapiro’s multimedia installation Post It! A Living History of New Deal Post Offices.
The artists spent July and August 2018 visiting over 70 New Deal post offices in the Northeast, Rust Belt, and Upper Midwest of the United States. Post It! A Living History of New Deal Post Offices introduces a portion of their research on the made-to-last federal architecture, through varied media including:
sculpture, collage, poetry, and audio essay.
The New Deal was a series of public works projects, financial reforms, and relief programs enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1942. Together, the New Deal responded to the need for recovery from the Great Depression.
The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 created the Public Works Administration (PWA), which organized and provided funds for the building of much-needed facilities, such as government buildings, airports, hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, and dams. Through this agency, many unemployed people were able to find work on a wide range of government-financed public works projects. From 1933 to 1942, roughly 1,500 post offices were built by the federal government across the country, many of which are still in operation today.
Another major federal initiative, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) subsidized artists, musicians, painters, and writers with a program called “The Federal Art Project.” It trained and paid artists to paint murals and sculpt statues for post offices, courthouses, and other federal buildings. Many of these works can still be seen in public buildings around the country. Journalists and novelists were also employed to document the impact of the New Deal, and capture the sentiments of the day.
Many of the murals in these post offices display the nation’s optimism about the country in full view of customers. Ben and Sarah’s work highlights the optimism expressed in these murals and post offices, demonstrating that standardization is beautiful, necessary, and engaging.
For this exhibition, the artists have created an immersive experience, inviting the audience to explore and follow their journey. Describing what they saw during their trip around the country, Ben and Sarah’s audio essay echoes the New Deal writers' experiences from the 1930’s and 40’s. Thus, Ben and Sarah’s work asks us: What would it mean if our public places were sites of national communication and exchange, not just services and semi-private spaces? The artists’ ongoing research aims to answer this question.
Benjamin Bromberg Gaber is a designer whose project explores the capacity for standard federal building designs. Sarah Shapiro is a visual artist and poet whose creative practice delves into place-making through concrete poetry.
This exhibit was curated and prepared by BAAA Gallery. Graphic works are done by BAAA BOOKS, the gallery’s in-house design studio founded to serve artists with photo/video documentation, poster, catalog, book, and exhibition design.