Mierle Laderman Ukeles is a pioneer in the field of socially engaged art, most known for her practice focusing on maintenance and sanitation workers. One of her most notable projects is Touch Sanitation (1979-1980), in which she shook hands with all 8,500 employees of the New York Sanitation Department along their routes and places of work, saying to each worker, face to face: “Thank you for keeping NYC alive!” During this year-long project, Ukeles traveled to all of the city’s 59 DSNY districts in a spiraling itinerary she called “Ten Sweeps,” repeating the ritual of shaking hands and saying “thank you” thousands of times throughout an 11-month period.

Since 1977, Ukeles has been the official, unsalaried artist-in-residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation and has created pieces that encompass the infinite maintenance work that keeps New York City functioning, such as urban waste flows, recycling, ecology, urban sustainability and our power to transform degraded land and water into healthy inhabitable public places. Mierle Laderman Ukeles is represented by Ronald Feldman Gallery, NYC.


Read Mierle Laderman Ukeles' full Artist's Statement on her project For ⟶ forever...

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