Bruce High Quality Foundation: The End of Western Art
Apr 3 – Jun 21, 2019
Located in the free-thinking Bohemian East Village, Cooper Union was the only tuition-free Arts college in America so one can surmise that talent and merit were the only qualities to be admitted, with a student body the art equivalent of new grapes blooming on sturdy old vines at the bottom of a gently sloping hill in Bordeaux. A clique comprised of the brightest minds would meet and argue politics at downtown noodle bars, pass notes to one another scrawled with high-concept inside jokes, smoking pot and passing bottles of cheap brown liquor throughout all-night Art theory debate, in a protracted effort to determine if they were just delusional or in fact could one day hang beside the Impressionists, the Bauhaus, the Cubists, the Surrealists, the Abstract Expressionists
I don’t mind marveling at a fine Swiss watch without ever being tempted to take it apart to find out how it works. But when it comes to new Art, I’m cursed by a restless curiosity that dogs me whenever I catch on to what some artist is up, some avant-garde notion, but I don’t get it. When Vito Schnabel first introduced the world to the work of Bruce High Quality Foundation, it was partly my blind trust in his vision that encouraged me to peer beneath the surface, but admittedly, I found their work at first inscrutable. When the Brooklyn Museum staged a comprehensive survey, I spent a day there acquainting myself with their new-fangled ideas, utopian values, their juvenile sarcasm and iconoclast cynicism shamelessly amalgamated with piety toward all that’s great in the western tradition; also delivered with punk rock sprezzatura and hermetic gravitas. I walked across the street to that great Jamaican bakery on Washington, feeling heroic in the afterglow of my big Eureka moment as if I’d deciphered the unbreakable Navajo code. I felt suddenly privy to the endless hours of insurrectionary plotting and applauded this new generation for having the wherewithal and grit to lay siege to the citadel afresh.
I bought one of their busts, and I lived with it as a prized possession, on my mantle. My father warned that something so fragile belonged in storage, yet every day I enjoyed viewing it in a new light. Innocuous plaster art reproductions smashed, then glued back together pell-mell with construction adhesives, a perfect metaphor for our Mannerist age. Perfect until that ruthless critic of everything beautiful, my cat Juju knocked it from its perch, shattering it across the floor, proving my father right once again. With a heavy heart, I packed the shards up and dropped in at the BHQF headquarters. I hadn’t heard from them since they decided to retreat into rock-star quasi-retirement. Not only did they agree to repair my cat’s handiwork, but I had an opportunity to see a fresh lineup of unseen works.
I’m a disaster at cocktail parties because I never talk to anyone I don’t already know. And yet all kinds of worthwhile enterprise are born of humble conversation. When the folks from ACA and I found ourselves furtively toasting Bruce High Quality Foundation at another artist’s opening, I told them all about the unseen treasures I had just glimpsed, and we agreed to follow up our discussion by sketching out a plan of actually exhibiting BHQF in an historical context at their gallery, whose pioneering interest in progressive American art was established early, endorsing fledgling geniuses like Stuart Davis, Louise Nevelson, the Ashcan School and Barnett Newman, David Smith, Romare Bearden, Jackson Pollock and Alice Neel, even staging a radical Picasso exhibit in 1944 side by side with his African influences. The art world is in dire need of game changers like ACA, whose tradition of breaking ground subsides to this day; they have stuck their proverbial neck out yet again.
Just like the dawn of the Tradition, when – for three thousand years – the artist of Egypt was a nameless voice from a single-minded collective, Bruce High Quality Foundation fittingly stands as a beacon signaling the end of Western Art, receding again into the faceless recesses of mysterious authorship to comment upon and complete the timeline. We have paired works from Bruce High Quality Foundation’s oeuvre side by side with the very artists out of history they are commenting on, for or against, whether from ACA’s vast arsenal or on generous loan.
If Bruce High Quality Foundation has enjoyed so far something akin to a dream career, exhibiting worldwide before graduation, there is still much to be said about this iconoclast collective. Please join us as we stand behind the young champions while they ridicule the pompous and sanctimonious, tearing down the time-honored treasures of the Academy, and conversely, cheering them on while they unearth a time-worn vestige of Ozymandias, pondering a shard of ancient pottery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection with the magical enthusiasm of an opium eater, giving a new spin on the term “High Art.”
– Nemo Librizzi, Co-CuratorDownload Press Release (PDF)