With Gilded Guns, Peter Gronquist Explores Opulence and Violence in American Culture
If you’re already familiar with the work of the Portland-based artist Peter Gronquist, it’s doubtful you’d recognize that the abstract paintings and sculptures in “All of the Above,” his new show at L.A.’s Soze Gallery, as his creations.
The taxidermy sculptures he’s known for are eye-catching, over-the-top, glamorous, and grotesque, delivering searing critiques of American consumerism and gun culture. His latest exhibit is comparatively low-key and represents a departure in medium. Yet it explores Americana similarly to his earlier mixed media sculptures (like One in a Million, 2013 depicting mounted stag heads boasting gold-plated rifles in the place of antlers.)
“All of the Above” comprises two categories of artwork: vibrant oil and acrylic paintings covered with plexiglas that seem to glow from within (see Untitled 2, 2015) and metallic sculptures encased in mirrors (as in Triangle Fighter Jets, 2015). It’s the works in the latter category that directly extend Gronquist’s investigation of what he calls “hyper-American” culture. Toy-sized fighter jets, helicopters, and tanks all make appearances here, plated in gold and multiplied many times over by the artist’s use of mirrors.
Juxtaposing opulence and violence is the artist’s hallmark. But his sculptures go further: they’re an exploration of the seductive power of luxury to which the artist admits that he, too, is susceptible. “Our culture puts money and violence on way too high of a pedestal. I think these days people no longer see the line between entertainment and reality,” noted Gronquist in an interview. “My work often deals with the glorification of violence in our culture. That being said, I love gold, and violent movies, and music.”
Gronquist’s aversion to and fascination with “hyper-America” are on display in roughly equal measure in “All of the Above”—the dramatic pieces smartly paired with subtler, almost ethereal paintings, enhancing the contrast of two extremes.
“All of the Above” is on view at Soze Gallery, Los Angeles, Jul. 25– Aug. 25, 2015.