Groundwork is an artist intervention that makes the pivotal agricultural labor history of East San Jose, CA more visible to residents and to visitors, and creates a chance for remembrance and reinterpretation that can sustain a locally-grounded identity.
Essays by Mary Burger, Barbara Goldstein, Rebecca Solnit, and Amy Trachtenberg
Groundwork is an artist intervention located in the entryway rotunda of the San José Public Library’s new Hillview Branch. It includes eight sculptural columns and a frieze of twenty-six paintings that together re-imagine the landscape and labor of San Jose’s agricultural past. The paintings use abstract geometric forms and intensities of light and color to evoke associations of agricultural labor.
Groundwork offers a new model for recognizing community history through public art. In collaboration with the architects, Trachtenberg created an interior installation grounded in landscape as a non-narrative work that evokes stories of lived experience, and a historical remembrance that provides a locus for an evolving community. Largely Latino since the fruit-growing era, the area now also includes a growing Vietnamese-speaking population, and faces the challenge of articulating a regional history while being sensitive to current change. Like many other communities across the U.S. and throughout the rapidly developing world, local residents are looking for a way to have a sense of place, rooted in the unique history and identity of their home. The richly sourced and crafted materials speak of the agricultural labor that created the first wave of development in the East San José region, now given way almost entirely to the technology-driven growth of Silicon Valley.
The book documents Trachtenberg’s process of engaging with the local community and developing forms and images to cultivate memory and honor the past. This richly illustrated volume includes essays by the artist and writers Rebecca Solnit and Mary Burger.