Bruce High Quality Foundation gets retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum

Untitled artists

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The revolution will be anonymous — and funny, too.

A politically charged and faceless group of artists are getting their 13-year retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum and the very first installation art-goers will see shows off the group’s sense of humor: a singing bucket and mop, the latter propped vertically not unlike a microphone stand, belting out “Con te Partiro” in Andrea Bocelli’s signature tenor.

Although comical at first glance, a closer look at the red stained mop and bloody water at the bottom of the bucket reveals violent undertones. The song’s romantic lyrics take on a sinister color.

“We’ve used mop buckets in our work because they evoke a kind of ubiquitous responsibi­lity,” said one of the unnamed artists of the group known as the Bruce High Quality Foundation.

“They are necessary to keep spaces clean and white. So the piece is about that supposed cusp between the free abstract space of art and the burdens of the real world.”

Little is known about anonymous members of the foundation aside from the fact some of the members are alumni of Cooper Union. The foundation said it’s committed to preserving the legacy of Bruce High Quality, a fictional artist who lost his life during the September 11, 2001 catastrophe. The works range from mixed-media installations to silkscreen paintings, and are often marked by a mischievous streak.

The foundation’s trademark wit is a tactful means of putting audiences at ease while tackling uncomfortable issues.

Another amusing piece that’s really being serious is “Apology.” It’s hard to suppress a smile when a gargantuan inflatable rat confides in you, and almost impossible not to listen to what it’s saying.

“I wish things were different,” says the blow-up figurine in a self-depreciating male voice. “Or maybe I wish I weren’t alone… My friends tell me I need to love myself.”

The sound of air whooshing in and out of the synthetic rat gives it the impression of breathing laboriously.

“ ‘Apology’ is about mourning the state of organized labor in the United States,” said one of the artists.

“Occupy Wall Street didn’t make us feel hopeful as it did for many. It made us sad that such a powerful force in the development of our democracy, organized labor, was no longer able to lead the way.”

“The Bruce High Quality Foundation: Ode to Joy 2001-2013,” at The Brooklyn Museum [200 Eastern Parkway, (718) 638–5000,]. Through September 22, Museum hours: Wed, Fri–Sun 11 am–6 pm, Thurs 11 am–10 pm.

Updated 10:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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