In a moment when the formerly radical act of “self-care” as it was imagined by the poet Audre Lorde has become an obvious marketing strategy deployed to capture the disposable income of yet one more generation of femme-identifying, self-objectifying subjects, this exhibition proposes that daily acts of care should be understood as quietly, yet decisively, disruptive of the status quo. Historically linked to the feminine, caring for others—either in personal or professional capacities—has garnered scant social capital. Yet increasingly, artists have turned to subtle and overt means of encoding alternatives to the sanctioned brutality of interpersonal interaction that has become ordinary in the early decades of the twenty-first century.

Following the thinking of writer Maggie Nelson, who reminds us that an “aesthetics of care” should not seek for the work of art to care for us, this exhibition gathers works that approach care as a complicated nexus of generosity and coercion. Caregiving, Nelson tells us further, has yet to be socialized beyond the maternal, even though its capacities have been valorized in other guises—when the very acts associated with conventional maternity are dissociated from gender but proposed as a form of freedom. In this exhibition, we seek to consider how slight gestures, open questions, repetitive acts, distant memories, and subtle refusals register alternate value systems. Co-curated by Janine Mileaf and H. Daly Arnett, the exhibition features works by Elliott Jerome Brown, Jr., Lenka Clayton, Sara Cwynar, Bronwyn Katz, Chancellor Maxwell, and Lily van der Stokker.

Upkeep overlaps in both time and topic with The Renaissance Society’s exhibition Nine Lives.