Ken Gonzales-Day | Untitled (Henry Weekes, Bust of an African Woman [based on a photographic image of Mary Seacole]; and Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, Bust of Mm. Adélaïde Julie Mirleau de Neuville, neé Garnier d’Isle, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA), 2011 | vinyl banner | Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus Gallery, Los Angeles
Location: Bass Museum of Art facade, facing South
Ken Gonzales-Day lives and works Los Angeles. He currently serves as the Art Department Chair at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. His work has been exhibited widely internationally at institutions and private collections including Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Getty Research Institute, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City; and Austrian Culture Forum, New York among others. He has been the subject of two monographs Ken Gonzales-Day, “Profiled” A PAC Prize Book. (Los Angeles: LACMA, 2011); and Ken Gonzales-Day, “Lynching in the West: 1850-1935”, A John Hope Franklin Book. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006).
Artist statement excerpted from the publication Ken Gonzales-Day, “Profiled”:
“This project surveys depictions of the human form as found in some of the most prestigious collections in the United States and Europe, spanning mainly from the eighteenth century until the present day. Yet Profiled is not a history of sculpture: it is a conceptual clustering of cultural artifacts, arranged to foreground the emergence, idealization, and even folly of race, including whiteness. My aim is to provide a new context for considering these ambiguous and sometimes troubling objects, some of which might otherwise be withheld from public view. So, like the protagonist in a mystery novel, I set out to look for clues in a vast cultural warehouse of sculptural depictions of race spanning more than two centuries and stretching across two continents. The images gathered during this investigation are presented here in an artist’s book…that conceptually reframes Western figurative sculpture through the lens of race and material history…”
“The project began while I was a Visiting Scholar and Artist-in-Residence at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 2008–09. The idea was simple enough: I set out to photograph every portrait bust in the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Villa, in Malibu, as a way of thinking about race, even if that race turned out to be mostly white. I initially intended to shoot them all in profile as a way of suggesting a comparison to the historic use of the facial profile in the mug shot, with its obvious associations with the “science” of physiognomy, character analysis, and the many pseudo-sciences that emerged in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth.”