On Exhibit: posters from a century of hard labor | Calendar | Chicago Reader

On Exhibit: posters from a century of hard labor 

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Gadfly historian and New Left refugee James Weinstein founded In These Times in Chicago to "inform, educate, and critically analyze an emerging popular movement on the left." That was 1977; in the intervening years the perennially cash-strapped biweekly has managed to survive not only the rightward lurch of the country's political discourse but also the departure four years ago of the charismatic Weinstein himself, who at times kept the publication afloat out of his own pocket.

Over the next month In These Times is celebrating its 27th anniversary with "Solidarity Forever! Graphics of the International Labor Movement," opening Saturday in the magazine's offices. The 73 posters in the exhibit are culled from the collection of the California-based Center for the Study of Political Graphics, and vary widely in style, from the black and red geometry of early-20th-century International Workers of the World posters to militant-looking 1970s woodcuts of striking farmers to whimsical contemporary cartoons. As a group, they document the labor movement's efforts to cope with the industrialized world's transition from a manufacturing- to a service-based economy: some decry the plight of janitors, others the on-the-job health hazards faced by video display terminal operators, and some--like a poster from a group called the "Bus Riders Union," demanding better bus service--seem to stretch the very definition of labor.

The exhibit is the third such show In These Times has hosted in the past year. The first, which looked at art and copyright law, drew 500 people to the opening reception. Associate publisher Tracy Van Slyke, who came on board in September, a few months after new publisher Jeff Epton, says the shows are part of an ongoing effort to raise the profile of the nonprofit publication and create a community of supporters that will ensure its continued survival. "There's not a huge acknowledgment of the independent progressive press in the midwest--people mostly focus on the coasts. Building that community in the midwest is important, and we think this is a good way to do it."

"Solidarity Forever! Graphics of the International Labor Movement" opens Saturday, January 24, and runs through February 27 at In These Times, 2040 N. Milwaukee. There'll be a free reception on the 24th from 7 to 10; state senator (and U.S. senate candidate) Barack Obama and Service Employees International Union Local 880 president Helen Miller are slated to speak. Call 773-772-0100, ext. 243, for more information.

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