Soon, passersby on Washington Avenue who look into The Wolfsonian’s Bridge Tender House will see what at first glance appears to be a severed head—and an oddly familiar one, at that. Bust of a Doctor, a new installation by artist Gideon Barnett, goes on view just before Art Basel Miami Beach; it opens November 28, 2013 and remains on view through May 18, 2014.
Anthony Bosch is the “doctor” in question. 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.
Barnett pulled multiple images of Bosch from the Internet as source material for Bust of a Doctor. He then used modeling software to create a sculptural portrait, fabricated of plaster composite by means of a 3D printer. “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.”
In addition to the events and media coverage of the Biogenesis scandal, the original setting and function of the Bridge Tender House inform the project. 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.
Bust of a Doctor is in keeping with much of Barnett’s current work—large-format, digital composite photographs in which he shoots a subject over a span of time, combines elements from multiple pictures into a single image, and then digitally embellishes that final image. With Bust of a Doctor, Barnett extends his practice into the third dimension for the first time.
“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,” Barnett says.
Barnett’s work has been exhibited at many museums and galleries including a solo exhibition in the Passage Pommeraye in Nantes, France as a part of Quinzaine Photographique Nantaise; Garis & Hahn in New York; the Miami Art Museum; and the Museum of Art | Ft. Lauderdale. Based in Miami, in 2011 Barnett received an M.F.A. from Yale University, where he was awarded the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship. He is the recipient of a 2013 South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship for Visual and Media Artists. Support for this project included 3D printing by LGM.
Bust of a Doctor, 2013
Gideon Barnett (American, b. 1982)
Plaster composite print
Courtesy of the artist
3D Printing by LGM