At Artpace I have been researching the point when money became abstract, and the origins of abstraction in the financial system. I’m interested in the shift from systems of coins, commodities and physical things to this world of paper accounting and, more recently, digital trading. The show is called Hold Nothing, and consists of a series of vessels, chests, and two very large cabinets. All of the objects are based on pieces from the Medici Grand Ducal Furniture workshop, a group of artisans that produced furniture for the Medici and other wealthy Florentine families during the High Renaissance period. The scale of the cabinets is odd, because they are large but not very deep. They actually had no function; the cabinets were huge displays of wealth. Anthropologists theorize that any object can function as currency: for the Aztecs it was the cacoa bean; in West Africa and China it was the cowry shell. In the context of the exhibition, I imagine the ceramic tiles functioning like coinage. Ceramics is actually an interesting media to work with because ceramic forms throughout history have harkened back to centuries before, taking a pattern and revising it, which is what these pieces are doing. The texture in some of the tiles actually comes from the parking lot outside the Artpace workshop.
Prior to my first visit to San Antonio, I spent time in Florence researching the Medici, one of the first major banking families. When I visited San Antonio I saw many old bank buildings from the gilded age of banking, including the old Travis Bank building across the street from Artpace. While the architecture of San Antonio isn’t literally present in the work, this era of banking was very much on my mind.
The idea of this empty vessel seemed to me an interesting metaphor for value and the idea of assigning value to the media of exchange. In the context of the exhibition the pieces are activated once during the opening, when they will be picked up and moved around while I am reading a text, tracing this history of monetary value, personal value, arbitrary value, and speculative value. I like to think about these objects as objects in motion and things that are changed by how we use them and where they exist in space and time. The value of this object is only what one assigns to it. One of the reasons I decided to make these works was because I was interested in the question of what it means to make sculpture when our world has become so digital and ephemeral.