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All that glitters: This fall Akron Art Museum presents "Alchemy: Transformations in Gold"
Lalla Essaydi, Bullets Revisited #3, 2012, three chromogenic prints mounted to aluminum with a UV protective laminate, each panel 88 x 71 in. Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery.

AKRON, OH.- The Akron Art Museum opened Alchemy: Transformations in Gold. The exhibition, which originated at the Des Moines Art Center, features sixteen international artists who incorporate gold or other metals disguised as gold into their work. The artists use gold not only to impart a sense of luxury but to examine the historic and cultural value societies have placed on the rare element.

“It’s precious, it’s brilliant, it’s glamorous. Gold is valued in different ways by cultures around the globe. Alchemy’s international roster of artists, many of whose work has never before been seen in Akron, explore how those values are expressed,” Associate Curator Theresa Bembnister said. “Gold is the perfect medium to raise questions about what a society treasures and why.”

Artists featured in Alchemy utilize gold in diverse ways in their artwork, ranging from exploring the intersection of art and science to personal narrative and social commentary. Timelessly glamorous and sought after, gold embodies complicated politics and potent symbolism. The works in Alchemy embrace both dark and light views of this glittering metal.

Luis Gispert combines gold chains and glittering stone into sparkling abstractions, referencing the decadence of hip-hop and rock-n-roll culture as well as post-war abstract painting. Gispert used a hydraulic press to squeeze gold chains into pieces of asphalt, resulting in dynamic patterns of gold on black.

Charles Lindsay, who trained as a geologist, creates work that synthesizes ideas about technology, ecosystems, semiotics and humor using salvaged aerospace and biotech equipment. The immersive installations he builds imagine futuristic field stations on other planets. Lindsay will transform an entire room in the museum gallery into a luminous field station.

Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi uses glittering gold-toned bullet casings to create garments and backdrops that refer to Islamic visual culture, which she then works into large-scale photographs. Evoking violence, the woven fabrics she creates are extremely heavy, literally weighing down the women in her pictures. She intends her images to raise questions about gender dynamics and cultural stereotyping.

Mid-way through the exhibition, artist Rachel Sussman will complete a site-specific project in the museum inspired by the Japanese tradition of kintsukuroi, in which broken ceramics are repaired with gold. Rather than disguise cracks and breakage, kintsukuroi honors the repair as part of an object’s history. Sussman will “repair” several cracks in the museum’s concrete lobby floor with gold resin. This long-term repair will remain part of the museum’s floor for years to come.

Other participating artists include James Lee Byars (United States/Egypt), Los Carpinteros (Cuba/Spain), Catherine Chalmers (United States), Dorothy Cross (Ireland), Olga de Amaral (Columbia), Don and Era Farnsworth (United States), Laurent Grasso (France), Teresa Margolles (Mexico/Spain), Hank Willis Thomas (United States), Danh Vo (Vietnam/Germany), Shinji Turner-Yamamoto (Japan/United States) and Zarina (India/United States).

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