Boren Banner Series: Stefan Gonzales
April 23 – October 16, 2022
Seattle-based artist Stefan Gonzales chronicles the lives of ordinary objects through photography, sculpture, and installation. Their project for the next iteration of the Frye’s Boren Banner Series represents the culmination of a monthslong process of collecting and documenting raw materials from area construction sites. Selecting worksites according to chance and intuition, Gonzales gathered similarly sized samples of unaltered materials like quarry stone, photographed them in their home studio, and returned the objects to be built into the intended structures. Their Boren Banner image is a compilation of these photographs that functions as a provisional archive—a small, subjective core sample of the enormous quantity of earth that is currently shifting within our community.
Over the last several years, Gonzales’s practice has focused on decolonizing and feminizing the aesthetics of 1960s–70s land art, which is strongly associated with the “heroic” masculinity and rugged individualism of artists like Robert Smithson. Smithson’s most famous artwork, Spiral Jetty (1970), is a 1,500-foot-long formation in the Great Salt Lake that is made from over 6,000 tons of displaced dirt and black basalt rocks. The work, alongside other touchstones of land art like Michael Heizer’s Double Negative (1969), has what Gonzales calls a remarkable “mythological imprint” that obscures the history and preexisting significance of the site. “They were talking about big, open, free geologic locations,” Gonzales says, “but what about the land that Spiral Jetty sits on? Who occupied the land first? That land had not really been ‘empty’ in the past.”
In contrast to these monumental gestures, Gonzales attends closely to individual elements of the built environment that normally go unnoticed. The artist’s recent projects have relied on a group of otherwise unremarkable stones that they continuously reconfigure, variously photographing them in the detached style of scientific cataloguing or arranging them in sculptural formations within gallery settings. Gonzales notes, “Something happens in this exchange from domesticated object to art object. When they are at home, they may be paperweights, doorstops, firepits, ashtrays, furniture, and so on. When they are in a gallery, they are an object used to perform the roles of minimalism. Decisions are made based on their structure, color, weight, reflexivity, mass, and how those various qualities interact with each other.” The artist’s Boren Banner project broadens the scope of their inquiry into the ways that context shapes perception and bestows value.
Stefan Gonzales (American, born 1994, Littleton, CO) is an artist and arts educator from Colorado now based in Seattle. They are Prio/Manso/Tiwa and a trans/nonbinary individual. Their practice centers on decolonizing art and its institutions. Gonzales received an MFA from the University of Washington in 2020 and BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in 2016. They have participated in residences at Signal Fire Arts in Portland and the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle. Recent exhibitions include Melanie Flood Projects (2020) in Portland and Mount Analogue (2019) in Seattle.
About the Series
The Boren Banner Series is a public art initiative by the Frye Art Museum that reflects the Museum’s commitment to showcasing artists of the Pacific Northwest. Presented biannually, the series gives regional artists the opportunity to create new site-specific work or show a previously unexhibited piece at monumental scale in the form of a 16 x 20 ft. vinyl banner. The billboard-size work is prominently sited on the Museum’s east facade, facing Boren Avenue: the Frye’s most visible and accessible physical interface.