Bust of a Doctor
Bust of a Doctor, a new installation by artist Gideon Barnett, is on view in The Wolfsonian’s Bridge Tender House from November 28, 2013 through May 18, 2014. The doctor in question is Anthony Bosch. The former director of Biogenesis, a clinic in Coral Gables, Florida, Bosch is a central figure in the doping scandal involving star baseball players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun. “I’m interested in Bosch’s specific story at this moment in history, but I’m also thinking of what he may represent in the future,” says Barnett. “The role of an enabler is as essential to the broader cultural storyline as that of a compromised hero, and I consider Bosch to be historically relevant enough to warrant canonization.”
Barnett pulled multiple images of Bosch from the Internet as source material for Bust of a Doctor. With these images as a reference, the artist used modeling software to create a sculptural portrait, fabricated of plaster composite by means of a 3D printer.
The installation is also informed by the original function and setting of the Bridge Tender House itself. Currently an unmistakable presence in front of The Wolfsonian on Washington Avenue, the 1939 stainless-steel Art Deco structure was originally situated at Miami’s 27th Avenue Bridge. Barnett notes a link between the function of a bridge tender, with the power to operate a mechanical drawbridge while being sheltered in a “house,” to the role of someone like Anthony Bosch, who used chemicals “to unlock an athlete’s full biological potential. For a ‘doctor’ and an athlete to treat a body like a machine requiring chemical tune-ups is a progressive yet modern relationship, which seems analogous to that of a bridge and its tender,” he says.
The artist’s concept for Bust of a Doctor is also inspired by the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) and Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736–1783). Bernini’s innovative sculpture was instrumental in establishing the Baroque style. Messerschmidt, whose work Barnett views as the historic forerunner to Bust of a Doctor, created sculptural busts called “Character Heads,” which suggest both an ambiguity and a broader context than that of specific likenesses.
Bust of a Doctor is in keeping with much of Barnett’s current work, including his large-format digital composite photographs in which he shoots a subject over a span of time combining elements from multiple pictures into a single image, which he then digitally embellishes. With Bust of a Doctor, Barnett extends his practice into the third dimension for the first time. Barnett considers the “combination of specificity and ambiguity” in works from antiquity to be an essential element of his practice. “On a walk through the Met, it’s possible that you’ll encounter a marble bust with a title like Young Athlete. Despite the generalized title, there is nothing general about the representation. Such pieces clearly depict individuals—often people that look as if you could have passed them on the sidewalk on the way to the museum—despite their likeness being committed to marble over a thousand years ago,” he says. “I use history as a framework for dealing with the present. Regarding doping, I can imagine a future where genetic enhancement is accepted as a requisite for athletic prowess. It seems inevitable, and Bosch is a tragic figure on this timeline. In the media, he has been portrayed in an unequivocally negative manner; however, I’ve come to think of him as the embodiment of a visionary, martyr, villain, and scapegoat all in one.”
Gideon Barnett was born in 1982 in Jasper, Tennessee. In 2011 he received an M.F.A. from Yale University where he was awarded the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship. In 2008 he was the subject of a solo exhibition in the Passage Pommeraye in Nantes, France as a part of Quinzaine Photographique Nantaise. In addition to his installation at The Wolfsonian, in 2013 he exhibited at Garis & Hahn in NYC, the Miami Art Museum, and the Museum of Art | Ft. Lauderdale. He received a South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship for Visual and Media Artists in 2013. He lives and works in Miami, Florida. For more information about Barnett’s work, see the artist’s website: www.gideonbarnett.com.
Support for this project includes 3D Printing by LGM.