written by Eddie Arroyo
Observing Chris Burden’s gold bullets, I was struck by their elegant power. Lined up in a roll and encased in glass; underneath there is an inscription titled “Pointies”. The cartridges are of different sizes and have a wonderful aesthetic quality – complimenting Burdens’s history with firearms. His most well-known in 1971, as a performance shot by a .22 rifle in his left arm by an assistant five meters away. But why gold as appose to any other alloy; silver, bronze, or copper for example?
The answer came in the first sentence of the GOLD exhibit’s press release at the Bass Museum of Art. Based on conceptual artist Piero Manzoni when he canned his own feces pricing them to the current weight in gold. It continued to site different examples of gold being used to elevate objects and ideas to their rightful monitory value.
Much of it proceeded the 1960s, however, this practice is nothing new. Artifacts from most civilizations have utilized this rare alloy for the exact same purpose. From the Funerary Mask of Tutankhamun to the Rothschild. Homer mentions it in the “Iliad” and “Odyssey” as the glory of the immortals. Which is precisely the reason it’s coveted by the very top of the social economic pyramid throughout history. From royalty and nobility to bourgeoisie and aristocracy and now it has taken form of celebrating its heritage in this institution.
The exhibition is excessive opulence boarding on ad nauseum bringing particular objects into sharp relief in spirit of intimidation. Alicja Kwade KOHLE (1T Rekord) is this hulking presence of bricks made of bronze and gold leave stacked on top of each other encased in glass for all to witness. Some are literal, Elmgreen & Dragset Temptation has a resin cast of a twenty-four carat beaten gold arm extending from the wall griping a bag of what is presumably coins. Fist clinched defying one to attempt possession.
Others present leisure, such as Martin Oppel Bar (Abstraction) designed as a forty five degree liquor bar playfully conveying intoxicated splendor. My favorite Dario Escobar Untitled (McDonald’s Cup) created in 1999 embraces globalization in its magnitude with gold pigments yet retains its unassuming 9 x 3 ½ form. Escobar could have easily inflated its scale so much as Oldenburg or Koons in an attempt to monumentalize its initiative but decided not to. There is a quiet menacing kitsch in it and it is the most intimidating of all the pieces in the exhibition.
That very night, driving north toward the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood I was contemplating the purpose of the GOLD exhibition. Who is their audience?
It celebrated a culture foreign to me – very much jarred by its overall presentation. This changed when I stepped into Echos Myron and found someone banging away on a plaster cube with a giant bone. The sound was amplified with the aid of a speaker and microphone which was incased in plaster by 3PQ. C. Townsend Rizzo stated it best as, “evidence of this joyfully violent creation could be found in plaster dusted footprints throughout the gallery as well as in echoes of the sound of smashing throughout the gallery.”
It was chaotic and complimented the entire group exhibition in collective solidarity of a moment in time within South Florida. Christian Salazar’s “Bulletproof Tiger” was a good representation of the overall posture showcasing the punk subculture during the 90’s in its nihilistic delight. The artifacts were vast and extensive from Viking Funerals “Born of Fire” to Kevin Arrow’s installation “Untitled (Dead Tape Collector, Jeff) which is an anthropological archive of Grateful Dead concert recordings intended to evoke a state of meditation and visceral nostalgia.
Most of the work seemed to pay homage to Churchill’s Pub, a place where musicians and miscreants would gather in punk rock fury and noise experimentation owned and operated by Dave Daniels for 35 years. I grew up during that period and felt consciously susceptible to its language.
There is the component representing a culture derived by the proletariat. Presented in a do it yourself aesthetic objects are underwhelming and unrefined in execution. As opposed to the GOLD exhibition where there is refinement in the most mundane and commissioned work. I found tension between the two palpable – within the context of national dialog regarding the wage gap with the recent Fast Food workers strikes.
It’s no coincidence “GOLD” is presented in conjunction with the Bass Museum of Art’s 50th anniversary but it’s disappointing that this precious alloy was used by curator Jose Carlos Diaz to elevate their mission. I understand the objective to use commodity to stimulate economic growth within the community but it feels more like pandering. I may as well walk along Bal Harbor shops for the newest object rather than attempting to understand a different approach in moving forward.