Installation view, Frieze New York 2019
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is very pleased to announce our participation in FRIEZE New York with a solo presentation by Ken Gonzales-Day in the Diálogos section, Booth DLG-12. The fair will be held in Randall's Park, New York City, from May 3-5, 2019.
Diálogos is a distinct section of Frieze, which will focus on work by contemporary Latinx artists. Curated by Patrick Charpenel and Susanna Temkin, and coinciding with El Museo del Barrio’s 50th anniversary, a select number of galleries have been invited to present works by artists who “played a significant role in El Museo’s history.”
For Diálogos, Gonzales-Day has created a new body of work entitled Constellations. The photographic images were the result of recent forays into the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (PAFA), The Louvre in Paris, and The Royal Cast Collection and Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, both in Copenhagen. Objects from these collections have been individually documented and assembled into “constellations”. The resulting photographs are framed and presented together as a frieze circumscribing the interior of the booth.
As in previous bodies of work, Gonzales-Day engages with historical objects as part of his ongoing research into the history of modern racial formation. Many of the historic works are rarely on public display; are used for teaching; or are being redefined within the museum and the field of art history, as is the case with, for example, African and Egyptian Art, Latin American Art and Art of the Americas, and so on. Nearly all of the works Gonzales-Day photographed were once displayed as part of a universalized humanist approach that could be said to begin with the Enlightenment project’s notion of progress.
Today, some of these art objects might be characterized as “possessions,” spiritual objects, or ancestor figures. In representing these works, Gonzales-Day invites us to consider the dual role of every museum object—part visual expression of the maker or makers and part historical artifact within a larger cultural, institutional, disciplinary narrative—what Michel Foucault characterized as the politics of the imagination. If for Foucault, the museum was a culture machine, then for Gonzales-Day, it is precisely the site from which to begin any critical excavation, artistic recuperation, or cultural reconciliation.
Rather than creating “new” sculptural objects, Gonzales-Day has assembled this series as a response to the vast under-representation of the struggles of black, brown, queer, and variously abled bodies in the majority of publicly funded museum collections. However, Gonzales-Day does not simply echo the importance of applying a critical framework for thinking about museum collections, he also provides a model when he employs LACMA’s encyclopedic museum collection in order to bring attention to works already in the collection. The mermaid, the slave, the hunchback, the toothless Mexican or aged god, the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati, are just a few the idiosyncratic or problematic typologies the artist has identified.
For Gonzales-Day, these and other objects suggest the recuperative potential of a proposition which sees the ever-expanding universe of museum collections as a universe filled with its own dying stars and dark holes from which to highlight, not only what is present, but what is missing as well.
For Diálogos, Gonzales-Day assembled an array of objects from the history of art that may have actually helped to shape our understanding of whiteness. One such “constellation” considers the sculptural works of Auguste Rodin, whose own embrace of modern casting techniques led to the wide-spread distribution of his work in plaster and bronze, an approach that was seen by his critics, and later scholars like Rosalind Krauss, as marking the end of the unique art object and introducing the idea of the edition to the art world.
As an artist and scholar, Gonzales-Day reconsiders cultural artifacts and continues his efforts to locate, identify, and share objects which have in some way contributed to our understanding of cultural difference, just as his much-cited Erased Lynching Series, helped to raise awareness of the lynching of Latinos, Native Americans and Asians in the American West. With Constellations, Gonzales-Day takes a closer look at museum collections as a way of thinking about missing histories. Working with museum directors, curators, collection management professionals, and other stakeholders, Gonzales-Day has identified, located, and photographed hundreds of works in museum collections as a way of mapping out the material remains of white racial formation in art and art history as it continues to effect contemporary thinking. But white racial formation is not the only cultural identity to be found.
In Americas (large and small constellation), 2019, Gonzales-Day has assembled works from LACMA’s Ancient Americas collection. The works assembled in this image represent a point of cultural pride for Gonzales-Day, who continues to look for, and track, Latinx representations of any kind in museum collections both locally and nationally. The piece also hints at the historical divide among collectors and scholars who have historically embraced Latin American Art but often failed to see contemporary Latinx artists as either American, or Latin American enough to collect or study.
With Constellations, Gonzales-Day offers us a glimpse of the future. It is a future in which the marginalized must claim absence and historical erasure as their own as they transform that absence into a site of contestation from which to make visible the material legacies of conquest, colonialism, and yes—museum display.
Ken Gonzales-Day’s was born 1964 in Santa Clara, CA. He holds an MFA from the University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA; an MA in Art History from City University of New York; and a BFA from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY. Gonzales-Day is a Getty scholar and a Terra Foundation and Smithsonian Museum fellow. In 2018, he was the subject of a solo exhibition, UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Other recent solo exhibitions include Surface Tension (in association with the Getty Institute’s Pacific Standard Time II: LA/LA), Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA; Ken Gonzales-Day: Bone Grass Boy in association with the Getty Institute’s Pacific Standard Time II: LA/LA) at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles; and Shadowlands, at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, MN.