Art Center taps a vein3/1/2017
Many of the famous quotes about gold diminish it. “All that is gold does not glitter” (J.R.R. Tolkein); “Health is real wealth not gold.” (M.H. Gandhi); “Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” (Democritus).” All those great thinkers and humanitarians lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the real world, though. Gold, along with love, became the ultimate lure and fascination. In some cases (“Silas Marner” and myth of King Midas), gold became an obsession. Its glitter is seductive at the least. Huge crowds at the Des Moines Art Center, since its new, gold-centric exhibition “Alchemy” opened in mid-February, testify to this.
What seduces artists to this incredibly expensive medium? Conceptual artist Rachel Sussman thinks it has something to do with immutability. For this show, she filled a fissure in the lobby’s stone floor with a filling of 23.5-karat gold and bronze.
“I do not think of this as a permanent fix; it’s just less impermanent. Time is my medium. I also contributed six photo studies of cracks to this show,” she said.
Sussman says her work intermingles art with science, particularly physics. She is a weather fanatic who feels that abrupt changes in barometric pressure connect her to a larger reality.
“My works all consider time scales and push comfort zones. Weather makes you aware of how small you are. Reducing yourself does not diminish you,” she said.
Sussman worked several years in England on a project called “The Oldest Things in the World.” She left that long-term project but is still working with, and against, time.
“Time as a subject of art is a challenge. A ‘Time of Mine’ project I am on is 10 years long. Tibetan Buddhism sees little change in the nature of the temporal things over 386,000 years,” she explained.
Charles Lindsay is a cosmic and introspective artist who will return to town for a discussion on March 30. A Carl Sagan disciple, he also considers time as a main theme.
“Gold was created in a super nova explosion on the far reaches of space. Its heaviness and durability have made it a significant part of space exploration,” he explained.
Lindsay’s contributions to this exhibition discuss the most practical applications of the element. He builds art with recycled gold parts from space trips. Who the hell else can do that? He also contrasts them spectacularly with horseshoe crab imagery. That creature has been pretty much unchanged for 450 million years on Earth. In one installation, they are having fun on Long Island while lit by the lights of JFK airport.
Lala Esaydi, a Moroccan conceptual photographer who dares to offer liberal interpretations of female beauty, and aesthetics in general, provides the main glitter of this show. I counted people entering the main gallery for this show and found half of them exclaiming on first sight of her “Bullets Revisited #3.”
The eye-grabbing champ of the show is James Lee Byars’ “Golden Divan.” It is exactly what gold means to be in its visceral, seductive sense. Many visitors long to touch it and lay upon it.
Touts: Olson-Larsen Galleries is hosting a show of “Seven Printmakers,” some better known in other media. Richard Black, Joel Elgin, newcomer Austen Ortiz, Levi Robb, Jeanine Coupe Ryding, Alyssa Tauber and Larry Welo play through April 15…Des Moines steel artist James Bearden is garnering serious praise from the East Coast press…The city’s most popular artist, Chris Vance, opens his annual show at Moberg Gallery on March 3. It plays through April 18. ♦