• Jill Magid 2020 Pattern Penny, 2021 (detail: uranium) Flameworked and mold-pressed glass Photo: Useful Art Services, Chicago © Jill Magid, Courtesy of the artist and LABOR, Mexico City

FOCUS: Jill Magid

(from Press Release)

For her exhibition at the Modern, Jill Magid will show the film Tender Balance alongside related works that expand upon her 2020 Creative Time public artwork, Tender. As the COVID-19 pandemic was unfolding, the artist noticed how public figureheads often downplayed the number of lives lost in contrast to the country’s perceived economic toll—demonstrating a stark difference in value between people’s lives and that of the nation’s economy. For Tender, Magid disseminated newly minted 2020 pennies engraved on the edge with the phrase “The BODY WAS ALREADY SO FRAGILE.” The coins entered the public’s hands via bodegas scattered throughout New York City. Passages of these exchanges in the film Tender Balance underscore the daily, close human connections that turned rife with anxiety and fear throughout the pandemic. The film implies the narrowing path the coins led from the mint to the individual—a course not unlike that of a pathogen—ruminating on systems of circulation on both intimate and grand scales.

For the next chapter of this project at the Modern, Magid will present a new body of work titled Labor Days, which expands upon Tender and Tender Balance. It includes drawings and sculptural installations, each from 2021. Labor Days turns its focus to labor and the essential workers that kept our economy, and society, afloat throughout COVID-19’s impact. In her bittersweet installation Bodega Flowers, Magid presents hundreds of fresh cut flowers evoking the ubiquitous displays outside of New York City bodegas—the same sites where the Tender pennies were distributed. The pandemic threatened many floral farmers’ businesses, and though the workers were deemed essential, the farms have not fully recovered.