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Posted by on January 6, 2010

The Nifty 50: Bruce High Quality Foundation

The Nifty 50: Bruce High Quality Foundation
Photo: Susan Inglett Gallery

Written by David Colman on January 6, 2010 for The New York Times

This month, T celebrates the Nifty 50: America’s up-and-coming talent.

Mixed messages are nothing new in the art world. However, the curious mash-up of sober scholarship and juvenile pranksterism that is the specialty of the Bruce High Quality Foundation is not only novel, it’s also intriguingly hard to nail down.

Just start with the collective’s claim that its half-dozen or so twentysomething members wish to remain anonymous to declaim the art-world star system. But their anonymity seems just as cannily calibrated to fast-track their burgeoning celebrity status — which has landed them in both the Whitney Biennial and P.S.1‘s “Greater New York” show this spring.

Coyly melding the pure, artistic piety of radical arts movements like Fluxus with the persiflage of Pop masters like Warhol, BHQF’s band of art-school grads are forever commenting on the art world and art history. In the process, they are perfecting a brand of performance art that could be called the art stunt. They created an art dinghy (with a miniature version of a Christo “Gate”) to follow in the wake of the Robert Smithson Art Barge (with a miniature version of Central Park). In a waggish but serious comment on Big Oil at Exit Art, they created a model-scale BP gas station and powered it — via dozens of copper electrical leads — with some 7,000 lemons and limes arranged into BP’s logo. When the produce rotted too quickly, they shifted gears, donned hazmat suits and made a film of the EPA-style cleanup.

And in what might be their most complex comment on the state of art — or at least on the costly art-school masters programs to which so many artists are heavily indebted — the Bruces unveiled their own university last fall, complete with classes like “Occult Shenanigans in 20th and 21st Centuries” and “Philosophy of Motion Pictures.” It’s not accredited, but hey, it doesn’t cost anything either. The open house for the second semester is Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. at 225 West Broadway in TriBeCa. Relics from the first semester are up at the Susan Inglett Gallery until Jan. 23, including blackboards bearing aphorisms like “What happens in the art world, stays in the art world.”

Clearly they need to add a cooking class, to teach people how they can have their cake and eat it, too.