hese eloquent sculptures and drawings from the 1980s and 1990s by Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler revealed the prescience of the duo’s socially conscious art. Their collaboration began in 1978 and lasted until Ericson’s death in 1995. Shown in New York for the first time since the late 1990s, the work continued to raise provocative questions about the interface between art and life.
Inspired by the the site-specific and Earth artists of the 1960s and ’70s, Ericson and Ziegler practiced within the social, historical, and political parameters of a place and sought ways of giving back to a community. For example, Feed and Seed (Gelsinger Farm, Buckwheat), 1989, involves collaborations with farmers in which the artists returned a percentage of the annual cost for seeds and the sale of artworks in exchange for empty seed bags, and Give and Take (1986) consists of broken tools used by Central Park workers that the artists repurposed and sold as art, funneling the profits into new tools.
Several sculptures used commercial paint colors to explore metaphor, function, commerce, and art. A Long Line (1995–96) consisted of bright-colored, battered toy trucks poignantly snaking across the floor, while elsewhere, drawings documented the artists’ most highly prized projects—living, social systems in which the role they played in communities surpassed their status as artists.