Gail Rothschild

Rubber Union

1992


Steel, rubber, latex, rubber gloves, and text. 16 x 25 x 55 feet.
Commissioned by the University of Akron. Akron, OH.

For most of the 20th Century the name Akron has been synonymous with rubber. Goodyear, Goodrich, Firestone and other tire manufacturers were located in Akron. The Rubber Workers in Akron set the standard for industrial unions when they organized in the 1930’s. In the last decades of the 20th century most of the tire companies moved their plants to non-union southern states. Akron, like so many rust belt cities, struggles through a post-industrial identity crisis.

Rubber tappers or Seringueiros in the Amazonian rainforest are fighting to preserve the rainforest and thus their livelihood. As Henry Ford discovered in the early 20th century, rubber plantations will not survive in the Amazon as they will in Southeast Asia. Therefore, to preserve the rubber trees, the entire ecosystem must be kept intake.

The two text panels at the entrance to the installation are: 1) The Platform of the National Rubber Tappers’ Council (1985) and 2) The Preamble to the Constitution of the United Rubber Workers of America (1964). The attenuated figures with upraised arms are based on paintings by indigenous rainforest people. The figures and floor are covered with rubber scraps donated by one of the few remaining tire manufacturers in the Akron area. The striped pattern formed by the rubber scraps on the floor resembles the cuts made in rubber trees by the Seringueiros to extract latex, the raw material from which rubber is made. The hanging panels are covered with latex. The workers’ rubber gloves have been loaned from the Surplus Store in Akron.

Rubber Union, 1992
Steel, rubber, latex, rubber gloves, and text
16 x 25 x 55 feet

Rubber Union, 1992
Steel, rubber, latex, rubber gloves, and text
16 x 25 x 55 feet