♢ EDITORIAL by Sal McIntyre, New York ♢
The entire material practice of artmaking revolves around the tempering and manipulation of light— whether with an illusion through paint and color or with the physical medium and its sculptural qualities— but when an artist takes it a step further, utilizing the refracting, luminescent nature of gold itself, it leads to something very exciting, transcending the mundane planes of a canvas and veritably breaking through the barrier that stands between the viewer and the artist’s vision. Gold as a color represents the sunlight, a symbol that is probably the single oldest symbol in the history of humanity, hidden amongst the origins of even the Sanskrit letterforms of written language. It is a concept that is at the very heart, so to speak, of our understanding of the world around us, and consequently of ourselves.
Whether used casually for fun, or with resoundingly meaningful purpose, gold carries a powerful message, a torch that refracts outward, transferring the artist's pure intention directly to us, and almost bypassing the middleman of our rational deconstruction. This in a way allows for a viewing experience that is the shortest distance between two points— the medium transmits the message, not just shedding light but practically manufacturing it.
Probably one of the best known and most beloved uses of gold in modern painting could be Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss— a universal subject matter that every living human can identify with. The painting is in fact mostly gold, to near dizzying effect, alluding to the intoxicating atmosphere that can exist around this vibrant human experience. This 33-inch square piece is a first edition print published for a retrospective of Klimt’s work at the Osterreiche Galerie in Austria in 1982.
Japanese designer Tadanori Yokoo, of infamous multicultural 60s kitsch pop art style, created the artwork for Santana's 1974 live album Lotus— his use of gold seems only appropriate, serving to transport not only the eclectic imagery he is presenting but also the magnitude of this musician’s sound. Yokoo’s design is fun and humorous, electric and incising all at once.
Louise Nevelson, in a constant conversation with the nature of bending light around by way of sculptural forms and the use of black and white, chose to have her 1977 exhibition prints At Pace Columbus (Gold) done with a foil background— giving her already shimmering artwork that much more impact.
In Gold Leaf on Panel, a piece by performance and color artist Yves Klein, the impulse is taken to an n-th degree, allowing gold leaf to take the floor. “The leaf that we delicately place on the surface to gild… What a better school for learning the respect of the picture material.”
In Robert Indiana’s poster Portland Symphony Orchestra 50th Anniversary, a superb silkscreen from 1974, the fanfare of 50 years of music is playfully broadcast with gold foil paperboard, an underscore that catapults Indiana’s strong design into a space somewhere between visual art and sound.
And lastly, in a poster by Nalini Malani for Roland Garros, one amidst a super-series of poster designs made for the French Open, gold foil was used to render the butterflies, an effervescent reflection of the blistering way in which light flies around a feverish tennis match, as sun in the eyes, as a joyride and perhaps also as athletic prowess.