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Detail of Field Station 2016—2017
Charles Lindsay (American, born 1961)
Courtesy of the Artist

Gold Drip II 2015
Don and Era Farnsworth (American)
Acrylic / aqueous paint, water-based and acrylic inkjet,
hand applied gold leaf on engraved $1 U.S. bank note
2 5/8 x 6 1/8 inches
Courtesy of the Artists and Magnolia Editions

Blinding Light 2010
Zarina (Indian, born 1937)
Okawara paper gilded with 22-karat gold leaf
73 x 39 x 1/2 inches
Courtesy of the Artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

Alchemy: Transformations in Gold
Akron Art Museum • Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries
Organized by Des Moines Art Center Curator Laura Burkhalter
October 7, 2017—January 21, 2018
By Des Moines Art Center and Akron Art Museum Staff

Bullets Revisited #3 2012
Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan, born 1956)
Three Chromogenic prints mounted to
aluminum with a UV protective laminate
Each Panel 88 x 71 inches
Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery

Jimmy Page 2015
Luis Gispert (American, born 1972)
Polychrome stone, gold chains
60 x 49 inches
Courtesy of the Artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
Image Courtesy of the Artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago

Alchemy: Transformations in Gold brings together a group of international artists whose work incorporates gold (or another metal disguised as gold). In each case, this precious material not only imparts a sense of luxury, but also calls to mind connotations of the historic and cultural value various societies have placed upon the rare element. As glamorous and sought after as gold may be, it suggests complicated politics and potent symbolism. The works in Alchemy embrace both dark and light readings of this glittering metal.

Luis Gispert combines gold chains and glittering stone into sparkling abstractions, referencing the decadence of hip-hop and rock-n-roll culture as well as post-war abstract painting. Inspired by the power of a hydraulic press, the artist created custom, asphalt-like canvases (made of painted gravel), in which gold necklace chains are pressured into distorted lines. Both metal and stone are polished to a high shine, resulting in dynamic patterns of gold on black, resembling lightning strikes or cosmic bodies in space.

Zarina constructs paper works and prayer bead sculptures in gold leaf, referencing architecture and contemplative spirituality. The ornate designs and symmetry of India’s Mughal architecture, of which the Taj Mahal is the most famous example, particularly appeals to her. Following these influences, rich materials and references to buildings appear throughout Zarina’s work.

Lalla Essaydi uses glittering gold-toned bullet casings to create garments and backdrops that refer to Islamic visual culture, which she then works into large-scale staged photographs. A strong metaphor for violence, the woven fabrics she creates are extremely heavy, literally weighing down the women in her pictures. She intends her images to raise questions about gender dynamics and cultural stereotyping.

Alchemy: Transformations in Gold was organized by the Des Moines Art Center.
Its presentation in Akron is supported by the Ohio Arts Council.
Additional support is provided by the Hilton Garden Inn-Akron.
Media support provided by ideastream®

Gold is used as currency throughout the world, and the first known gold coins date back nearly 3,000 years. Many monetary systems were based on the gold standard, meaning that circulating coins and paper money were backed up by gold reserves. The United States abandoned this standard in the 1970s, but it’s safe to say that in most minds, gold equals money—conceptually, if not actually. Don and Era Farnsworth’s Art Notes series reimagines the dollar in various guises, using tools of humor, irony, and political comment. Many pay homage to famous artists of the past— particularly those so famous they’ve become commodities themselves. Elements of these artists’ lives or quotes by them tease out the complex connections between art and money. Vincent van Gogh, famous for enduring poverty in life, stares from a bill stating, “The way to know life is to love many things.”

Rachel Sussman will install a site-specific work mid-way through the run of the Akron Art Museum’s presentation of Alchemy in homage to the Japanese tradition of “kintsukuroi,” in which ceramics are repaired with gold. Objects used in daily life naturally incur damage, and rather than disguise cracks and breakage, kintsukuroi honors repair as part of an object’s history. Sussman will “repair” a crack in the lobby with gold resin. Related photographs by Sussman will also be in the exhibition.

Trained as a geologist, Charles Lindsay transforms salvaged aerospace and biotech equipment into his ambitious installations and sculpture. These circuits, retroflectors, laser-optic parts, and colliders, many of which are gold, take on new roles in Lindsay’s installation, Field Station. The artist imagines an outpost set up in a new world and questions what humans will bring as pioneers from Earth. Lindsay will transform an entire room in the Arnstein gallery into an immersive, futuristic field station.

Other participating artists are James Lee Byars, Los Carpinteros, Catherine Chalmers, Dorothy Cross, Olga de Amaral, Laurent Grasso, Hank Willis Thomas and Shinji Turner-Yamamoto.
—Des Moines Art Center