“MAINTENANCE ART,” Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s dense and radiant Queens Museum retrospective, is not only about maintenance but about commitment: a groundbreaking practice of labor and care that the artist invented and to which she has remained devoted for decades. The blessing/crisis of motherhood precipitated her bold conceptual move. In 1969, as a young artist burdened by the demands of housekeeping and childcare, she had little time to devote to her “real” work, so she hit upon a Duchampian-feminist method of designation to transform her crucial yet unrecognized laborand eventually that of many othersinto art. A urinal is not Maintenance Art, but the process of disinfecting one could well be. As Ukeles explains in her famous, wonderfully off-the-cuff manifesto composed that pivotal year, maintenance, the term for repetitive tasks of sustenance, preservation, renewal,
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