Artwork Detail

Plaza Inferno Grid
2008
American, b. 1964
Oil and pigment on six pieces of gessoed paper
102 x 67 1/2 x 2 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund, 2012
WU 2012.0003 a-f
Highlights
In Plaza Inferno Grid Gary Simmons explores class and race issues in American society. By challenging the truth-value of existing images through methods of blurring and abstraction, Simmons unmasks their ideological complicity. In this painting the artist presents a science fiction-like rendering of a skyscraper fragmented by a six-part grid that adds an abstracted and ambiguous quality. It is part of a series of works he created in reference to the 1972 sci-fi movie Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, a cinematic metaphor for race relations in the United States released in the years following the Watts Riots of 1965. In this film the corporate environment of Century City in Los Angeles provides the setting for a dystopian future; Simmons’s blurring method makes the skyscraper appear as if it was set aflame, contributing to the work’s overall unreal effect. Created and first exhibited during the 2008 US presidential election, which was marked by contradictions between the popularity of the nation’s first African American presidential candidate and the coded racism of much of his opposition, Plaza Inferno Grid also resonates as a symbol for the politics of identity and race in contemporary American society. [Permanent collection label, 2016]