If our digital culture has taught us anything, it’s that imagery has the power to influence our beliefs, what and who we follow, and our societal perceptions. Imagery from world events – that we could previously only see on the news and in print – can now be shared at just a click. The studio Work/Play – founded by husband and wife, art and design duo Danielle and Kevin McCoy – works with an assemblage of such imagery, as well as objects, clothing and video. Inspired by its surrounding community, from family and friends to its mentors, Work/Play engages with racial identity, inequality, police brutality and redacted history, in the past and present.
Based in East St. Louis, the duo are aware of perceptions of the area as politically charged. “It’s due to the violence that erupted in the spring and summer of 1917.” Referring to the East St. Louis massacre, that saw some 7,000 Black people brutally displaced from the city and up to 200 murdered by white mobs, by many estimates, Kevin says that these histories – that are often suppressed – are what we can see appearing in their work.
Danielle and Kevin often manipulate ready-made objects to exercise their themes. Like a Colin Kaepernick jersey, burned and altered to represent the commonplace nature of criticism hurdled at Black athletes who take a political stance. The result is work that not only places past imagery in our current context, but ties in modern imagery with the wider realm of Black history.
Work/Play: America: A Cold Game (Copyright © Work/Play and image courtesy of Mike DeFilippo, 2023)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) is a staff writer at It's Nice That, with a particular interest in Black visual culture. They have previously written for publications such as WePresent, and worked as researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.