Eleanor Antin’s Vietnam-Era Boots Speak to Today’s Troubles

THE DAILY PIC: Antin's '100 Boots' piece is 45 years old, but more topical than ever.

THE DAILY PIC (#1764): There has always been a suspicion that conceptual artists take the easy way out, avoiding the hard labor that painters and other traditional artists go through in stretching a canvas or boiling rabbit-skin glue or hammering away at a great lump of rock. Seeing the famous 100 Boots project that Eleanor Antin came up with in the early 1970s, now revisited at Alden Projects in New York—with a number of never-before-seen images on view—I was struck by how much crazy labor she put into it. For month after month after month, her five-score empty rubber boots had to be carted across the country, set up in various evocative spots, and then photographed before someone could come along and chase Antin away.

A text at Alden says that, at the time, the empty boots would have had immediate resonance as a reference to the Vietnam War, and to the boot-wearers who would never come home.

In our current political predicament, however, it’s hard not to dwell on a shot Antin took of her empty boots (see below) at a checkpoint on our southern border—now to be read as the boots of perfectly promising Americans whose hard work our society will have to do without. Or of boots gathered (as above) in front of a Rural Manpower Office—now the boots of Trump fans slowly waking to the fact that the jobs he creates will, at best, go to new butlers for his billionaire cronies. (Images copyright Eleanor Antin, courtesy of Alden Projects, New York)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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