Gold in contemporary art making

The Hood Museum of Art presents Gilded: Contemporary Artists Explore Value and Worth, from February 3 through June 22, 2024. Including the work of 17 artists in a wide range of media, the exhibition explores the use and significance of gold in artistic expression today.

The exhibition was organized by Emily Stamey, Elizabeth McIver Weatherspoon Curator of Academic Programming and Head of Exhibitions at the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC Greensboro. It features the work of Radcliffe Bailey, Larissa Bates, william cordova, Angela Fraleigh, Gajin Fujita, Nicholas Galanin, Liz Glynn, Shan Goshorn, Sherin Guirguis, Titus Kaphar, Hung Liu, James Nares, Ronny Quevedo, Shinji Turner-Yamamoto, Danh Vo, Stacy Lynn Waddell, and Summer Wheat.

Across time and cultures, gold has served as a metaphor for what we value most. Symbolically, it stands in for goodness, excellence, brilliance, and wealth. Craftspeople have long pounded gold into thin sheets called leaves, which are applied in a process called gilding. In realms of the spiritual, this gilding illuminates sacred texts, gives otherworldly luster to holy spaces, and allows religious sculptures to shine.

While we most frequently associate gold leaf with historical traditions, the material appears frequently in the work of contemporary artists as well. Those represented in this exhibition turn to gilding as a means of reconsidering our value systems.

Gilded at the Hood Museum will feature well-known contemporary artists such as Titus Kaphur and Radcliffe Bailey as well as up-and-coming voices including Larissa Bates and Liz Glynn,” Ashley Offill, the Hood Museum’s curator of collections, said. “The artworks included in the exhibition are rich not only in their materiality, but also in the avenues they open up for discussions of history, identity, and societal value. These questions are foundational interrogations of the past and society’s assumptions about value.”

Gilding images of graffiti and sidewalks, cardboard boxes, and architectural fragments, they ask us to see the beauty in what we overlook and honor that which we throw away. Through gilding images of people—often those who have been disempowered or forgotten—they ask us to bolster our collective humanity. If, as the saying goes, “all that glitters is not gold,” then the artists represented here offer an inverse proposition: perhaps that which does not always shine is most worthy of our attention.

Gilded: Contemporary Artists Explore Value and Worth debuted at the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC Greensboro (September 10, 2022–April 8, 2023) and traveled to the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, TN (September 22, 2023–January 8, 2024) and the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, in Hanover, NH (February 3–June 22, 2024).

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