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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Hood exhibition “Gilded: Contemporary Artists Explore Value and Worth” prompts viewers to look closer

The latest loan exhibition at The Hood explores societal values through the use of gold in art.

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Photo courtesy of the Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro.

Bright and sparkling on the second floor of The Hood Museum of Art, its latest exhibition, “Gilded: Contemporary Artists Explore Value and Worth” piques interest and demands a closer look. Each of the works in this loan exhibition, all by contemporary artists within the last 10 years, incorporates elements of gold and gold leaf.

“Gilded” was originally curated at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, before being brought to Dartmouth, according to The Hood curator of collections Ashley Offill. Many of the artists featured in the exhibit have not been featured by The Hood before, offering an opportunity for viewers to engage with new styles and themes, Offill said.

“[This exhibit] caught my attention specifically because I am really interested in materials and making and those processes,” Offill said. “This idea of using gold and particularly the techniques of gilding as a connector was interesting to me because not only was it connecting these artists within the show, but it was also connecting them to a history of art and of culture and of making more broadly.”

“Gilded” explores societal values and uses gold to draw our attention to things that we may not have otherwise given much notice, such as cardboard, graffiti and architecture. While the gilding of these pieces initially draws the viewer’s attention, the use of mixed media contrasts with gold’s connotations with wealth and compels the audience to look further while reconsidering values and assumptions. 

William Summitt ’26 said the exhibition resonated with him, and that he enjoyed the impact of each piece.

“I think that [the exhibition] feels very cohesive,” Summit said. “It’s got a very strong theme that is supported visually. I think that each piece really takes up its own space.”

Campus engagement coordinator Jenna Blair emphasised that each person brings new assumptions, backgrounds and ideas to their experience of the exhibition.

“Something about contemporary shows really speaks to student audiences in a different kind of way,” Blair said. “A lot of the artists are exploring their work through a social justice lens and a lens of identity, and so there’s a lot that can speak to students in contemporary work.”

Each person interviewed for this article found themselves drawn to different pieces in “Gilded.” Blair described the unique relationship she has with Gajin Fujita’s graffiti-style artwork, “Invincible Kings of This Mad Mad World,” which reminded her of California, her home state. Offill noted the hidden complexity and context of Radcliffe Bailey’s door, which was gilded on one side and left untouched on the other side. The artist left the different locks on the door added by its previous owners at varying times to draw the viewer’s attention to the passing of time. Summitt was intrigued by the mixed media composition and depth of Ronny Quevedo’s “Zoot Suit Riot at Qoricancha.” 

Bringing “Gilded” to The Hood, however, was not without its challenges. Its gallery space differed greatly from the space of previous galleries where it was displayed. Notably, Offill mentioned that previous gallery spaces had large, open rooms that differed from the more closed floor plan of The Hood. This motivated Offill to rethink the order of the artworks. Partly defined by scale, some pieces, such as Gajin Fujita’s “Invincible Kings of This Mad Mad World,” could only fit into one gallery. 

“What I found is that the themes that the artists are engaging with, I could identify these tracks of artists who were looking specifically at place … [and] themes of identity, and artists who are engaging particularly with history and tradition,” Offill said. “And while they are threads that connect between and among all the different galleries, that was how I set about finding these groupings that would work in our space.”

“Gilded” also taps into the dual nature of The Hood as a university museum by creating an intellectual space for learning, discussion and the exploration of new ideas, Blair said.

There are many different events associated with The Hood’s “Gilded” exhibition. Inspired by the processes of gilding and working with a material such as gold leaf, The Hood is arranging art workshops, where students can try out the process of working with gold leaf and gilding for themselves. Studio Session: Gilding will be held at The Hood on Feb. 29 from 6-7:30 p.m. Additionally, Hood After 5, a student-driven event hosted by the Museum Club, will take place in the “Gilded” exhibition space on Feb. 22; the event will feature live music, art, entertainment and snacks. “Gilded” will be available at The Hood from Feb. 8 to June 22.