How many billboards?
Ken Gonzales-Day
Photo: Gerard Smulevich

Ken Gonzales-Day

The rigorous inter-disciplinary practice of artist and scholar Ken Gonzales-Day brings historical research and theoretical analysis of representation to bear on his practice of photography. At the same time, his knowledge as a practitioner provides the visual insight required by his scholarly projects. His book Lynching in the West: 1850-1935 (Duke University Press, 2006) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It investigates, among other things, the role of photography in its relationship to the discourse of race and the dire consequences of racism. Gonzales-Day's billboard project brings these histories into the present, reflecting upon how residues of oppression linger in varying forms, despite the many changes that society continues to undergo. His subjects, Bust of a Young Man (bronze with silver inlay eyes, by the Italian artist Antico) and Bust of a Man (black stone-pietra da paragone, Florence 1758, by the Englishman Francis Harwood), are owned by the J. Paul Getty Museum. Gonzales-Day photographed them as part of his Profile Series during a residency as a Getty Research Institute Scholar. The historical sculptures refer to the artistic styles and philosophies of the Renaissance and the Neoclassical period, both of which in their turn revived the achievements of Greek and Roman culture. The imaged sculptures serve as a reminder that despite the manifold social advancements we have witnessed, it is still with the vocabulary of the past that we speak today. The figures in profile also allude to the dawn of photography and the earliest technologies used to mechanically reproduce human likeness. In the third image, a Photoshop composite of the figures facing each other ignites an erotic charge as they stare into one another's eyes. As photographs of sculptures engaged in a virtual erotic dynamic, these profiles are thrice removed from their human referents, a fact which is emphasized by the brilliant highlights that bounce off the material-objects' surfaces.
By Nizan Shaked

LOCATION: Olympic Blvd, west of Gramercy Pl, on the west side of the street, facing east.
METRO: Olympic Blvd. Metro Bus 28, 728
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Ken Gonzales-Day (b. 1964)
Ken Gonzales-Day is a Los Angeles-based artist and writer. He studied painting and art history at the Pratt Institute before receiving his MFA in photography at University of California, Irvine. His practice often takes a conceptual lens to historically charged imagery, investigating the often violent and disruptive social and political past of the United States. His book, Lynching in the West: 1850-1935, was published by Duke University Press in 2006. Gonzales-Day is currently a professor at Scripps College.

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