The Bruce High Quality Foundation: Ode to Joy, 2001–2013
The Bruce High Quality Foundation (BHQF) is a Brooklyn-based institution composed of artists dedicated to preserving the legacy of Bruce High Quality, whom the Foundation describes as a fictional “social sculptor” who perished in the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Ode to Joy presents a selective overview of the Foundation’s work from the past decade, including video, sculpture, photography, and painting.
BHQF consistently makes reference to the cultural icons of the Western world. These include works by famous artists, such as Michelangelo, Diego Velázquez, and Pablo Picasso; aspects of popular culture, such as the Broadway musical Cats, Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the song “Con te Partirò,” popularized by Andrea Bocelli; and key moments in history, such as the Roman Empire, the French Revolution, and the Great Depression. Often assuming the form of a redo, a reenactment, or even a parody, the Foundation’s humorous and provocative transformation of source material raises open-ended questions. This pervasive tone of inquiry and reevaluation could be seen as reflecting a collective ethos of introspection and even self-doubt that overtook America following the events of 9/11.
The persona of the fictional Bruce High Quality appears in part to be modeled on two highly influential artists. One is the American Pop artist Andy Warhol (1928–1987), whose singling out of iconic images, whether soup cans, newspaper photographs, or celebrities, demonstrated a savvy understanding of the ways culture is shaped by the mass media. The other, Joseph Beuys (1921–1986), is a German sculptor whose ideas were disseminated in the United States in the 1970s. He coined the term “social sculpture,” an expansive concept intended to harness the creativity of all citizens to help bring about social transformation for the betterment of a worldwide democratic society.
This utopian ideal is consistent with BHQF’s concise mission statement that the Foundation was created with the goal of “fostering an alternative to everything.” While critically examining America’s place in a new world order, the work of BHQF simultaneously affirms the significant role that democracy as an ideal continues to play on the global stage.