The Bruce High Quality Foundation. Isle of the Dead, 2008. Photograph courtesy of the Foundation.
NEW YORK - Biting that hand that feeds is a grand artistic tradition to be sure. And these days, institutions and collectors are particularly smitten by creative types who mock and scorn them, or at least eye-roll in their general direction.
It demonstrates a certain seriousness on the part of the artist, the thinking goes, to thumb a nose at the people with money and power who largely control their fate.
Certainly the Bruce High Quality Foundation fits nicely into this paradigm. The anonymous Brooklyn-based collective, who named themselves after a fictional artist who perished on 9/11, have a particular talent for humor, referencing other artworks and strangely evocative juxtapositions of images, not to mention laughing at the art world generally.
Now, the saucy brigade has its first museum exhibition, “The Bruce High Quality Foundation: Ode to Joy, 2001–2013,” at the Brooklyn Museum of Art until 22 September.
Below, a brief Q&A with the Bruces:
The Bruce High Quality Foundation. Thank You New York, 2009. Courtesy of The Bruce High Quality Foundation. Photograph courtesy of the Foundation.
What should viewers take away from this show?
Joy, freedom, hope, empowerment, a renewed faith in democracy, a commitment to fairness as something to work for despite how impossible it may seem, an interest in history, a skepticism toward institutions, toward gossip, toward entrenched power, a consideration of irony: that it may hold the capacity to increase our humanity, our empathy, our distaste for cruelty, a bit of cruelty, a bit of pain, a nod toward tragedy, but mostly just sadness. And jokes.
Do the references to other art in your pieces limit your audience?
If someone has to go look up a picture of Las Meninas in a book to feel like they understand our work, well, we don't think it will hurt them any. Art experiences should not be the equivalent of being pissed on and told it is raining. The audience should expect to do a little work, a little thinking for themselves.
The Bruce High Quality Foundation. Raft of the Medusa, 2004. Private collection. Photograph courtesy of the Foundation.
What's one key work in the Brooklyn show that gets across what BHQF is all about?
The title work, Ode to Joy, is an inflatable pool with a block of styrofoam floating in it. On the styrofoam is a television playing a video of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" performed simultaneously on five continents by some two thousand musicians during the opening ceremony of the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998. We've subtitled the chorus with Howard Roark's speech on the evil of collectivism from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.
What's next for BHQF after this show?
Our future is about expansion.