THE BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION (established 2001)
Double Iwo Jima, 2012 each: signed and dated '2012 The Bruce High Quality Foundation' (on the overlap) diptych--acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas each: 72 x 72in. (182.9 x 182.9cm) overall: 72 x 144in. (182.9 x 365.7cm)
PROVENANCE: Prism Gallery, Los Angeles. Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired from the above by the present owner).
"The Bruce High Quality Foundation, the official arbiter of the estate of Bruce High Quality, is dedicated to the preservation of the legacy of the late social sculptor, Bruce High Quality. In the spirit of the life and work of Bruce High Quality, we aspire to invest the experience of public space with wonder, to resurrect art history from the bowels of despair, and to impregnate the institutions of art with the joy of man's desiring." (The Bruce High Quality Foundation)
Formed in 2004, the Bruce High Quality Foundation is a rotating collective of mostly anonymous artists ranging from five to eight artists at any given time. Originally the members were all alumni of the art college at Cooper Union in Manhattan; however, the group has since expanded its reach to include artists outside the school. The collective has for the most part remained unnamed and unidentified as a reactive means to disengage from the practice of immortalizing young successful artists and deconstructing the notion of superstar artists that has become in their minds out of control over the past decades.
The practice of appropriation is paramount to the Bruce High Quality Foundation's (BHQF) ideology and working method. Often using deadpan humor, borrowed techniques or even famous images, their work can readily be seen as a critique of traditional art history, contemporary art practices and current political and social status.
"Our ideas are always in response to context, what we think and how we feel about some situation going on around us or directly effecting [sic] the worlds we care about. What does it mean to be an artist now? In New York? Internationally? What does the market have to do with creative action? How do art history and its agents create the present? The future? What does public art mean? What does collaboration mean? Our collaboration is an ongoing conversation. We generate ideas together and we realize them together. It matters what kind of screws go in the wall and what kind of lights go on the ceiling. Metaphors have to resist gravity just like people do" (BHQF quoted in conversation with Cecilia Alemani, "The Bruce High Quality Foundation: Our Future is About Expansion", reproduced on http://www.moussemagazine.it).
In Double Iwo Jima, 2012, BHQF has appropriated the famous Pulitzer Prize winning Joe Rosenthal photograph of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima. This image has been ingrained in the consciousness of all Americans and likely the world since its inception and serves as a reminder of the courage and defiance this group of American soldiers displayed in the face of imminent danger nearly 70 years ago. BHFQ brings this moment back to the forefront of our consciousness when we have again been faced with threats of violence and political struggle across the globe. The repetition of the image across the diptych coupled with the sheer scale and strong visual impact of the black on silver representation heighten the sensation of nostalgia and memory while reinforcing our sense of strength and determination.
It is not just the celebrated photograph that BHQF has appropriated here thoughit is also the technique and formal presentation that has been borrowed from the master pop artist, Andy Warhol. In the 1960s Warhol had already achieved substantial notoriety and critical praise for his iconic silk-screened images of media icons and events. Works such as his Silver Liz, 1963, now a bona fide masterpiece, acted as a cultural reminder and comment on America's obsession with the glamorous life-style of the rich and famous. Warhol's somewhat simple process of silk-screening appropriated images on to canvas predominantly with just two colors, spoke to the developments with mass production and consumerism, while simultaneously pushing the banal to the extraordinary and noteworthy. As his process and success developed Warhol tackled political situations with the same ideologyworks like Little Race Riot, 1964 demonstrate this clearly. Here he added to the impact by duplicating the source image four times, reinforcing the attention the image and famous event should be receiving by confronting the viewer with serial imaging. BHQF's Double Iwo Jima borrows from both of these works to not only stress the importance of the image itself and the memories associated with it, but also, and perhaps more importantly to create a dialogue about contemporary art practice in today's society and specifically the role the artist plays.
"A lot of that comes from thinking about younger artists, not even our generation but the one that is coming next. There is always this constant fear of what art history is. Everything's been done, so how are you going to do something important in relation to that? It's been important for us to think of art history as a material, as more stuff to work with, whether it's to honor or to disparage it. It's as much a material as anything else, wood or plaster" - The Bruce High Quality Foundation (The Bruce High Quality Foundation quoted in Cameron Shaw, "Enter the Afterlife: A Conversation With The Bruce High Qaulity Foundation", in Art in America, online version, 23 March 2009).
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