Mining the Past with Bruce High Quality Foundation
"In the future, everyone will be a foundation." - Bruce High Quality Foundation
Since forming in 2004, the collective known as Bruce High Quality Foundation (BHQF) has become synonymous with their use of deadpan humor to critique traditional art histories and the contemporary fine art milieu. Anonymity has been a prudent and scrupulous trait for the collective, composed of five to eight rotating artists, originally alumni of New York City's Cooper Union.
Guided by a mission "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", BHQF notoriously appropriates work from the past, creating a charged dialogue with the present.
The overt appropriation in this work, unabashedly titled Las Meninas, is multifarious in terms of the iconographic and the aesthetic. First, with analogous titles, the left panel of the diptych is a reproduction of the 17th-century painting by Diego Velázquez. The group portrait of the Spanish royal family (and the inclusion of a self-portrait of the artist at the easel) is iconic and stands as the Velázquez’s most famous work. As Velázquez presents himself in Las Meninas (circa 1656) as an unrivalled painter welcomed into the royal sphere, the appropriation of the work refers back to BHQF’s rejection of the "celebrity artist." Las Meninas (2011) is juxtaposed with a silkscreened photograph of the BHQF studio, notably absent of any artist, however, scattered with materials of art production. Both versions of Las Meninas are paintings regarding notions of the artist and ultimately reveal the processes of art-making.
Formally, the black on silver silkscreening application of BHFQ’s Las Meninas serves as a visual allusion to Andy Warhol’s seminal silkscreens of the sixties. By using visual codes, BHQF’s specific reference to Warhol is used to further articulate the role of the artist. Warhol serves as the clear precursor to the contemporary status of superstar artists with fame, celebrity and notoriety delineating key themes in Warhol’s work. Thus, through appropriation of iconography and style from icons of the past, BHQF formulates a cohesive dialogue about contemporary art practice today.
"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." (BHQF in an interview with Cameron Shaw, 'Enter the Afterlife: A Conversation with the Bruce High Quality Foundation', Art in America, March 2009).
Las Meninas will be offered in our Contemporary Art auction, 14 February 2013, in London.