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In a way, money might be an odd topic for an art exhibition. Coins and bills are such an everyday part of our lives that we rarely contemplate them. American currency is rather plain and rarely changes, so why would we notice it? Yet the very fact that we take money for granted makes it fertile material for artists.
The 26 artists and collectives with work on view at the Columbus Museum of Art’s current exhibition In __ We Trust: Art and Money, examine money for more than its face value. They poke fun at the dominant role it has in our lives, often with contagious glee. The exhibition includes sculptures, prints, and paintings that reimagine the everyday dollar and penny, often exploring its unnoticed flourishes and symbols.
J.S.G. Boggs’ K.P. Duty is among the works that tries to get inside the idea of money by probing its function as a symbol of value. Boggs’ drawings are exact replicas of the face side of bills, which he offers to merchants in exchange for goods or services.
From Susan Collis’ tiny household objects made of exotic stones and precious metals to Gabriel Kuri’s 10-foot-high tapestries that mimic store receipts, the wide range of media and scale as well as the artists’ truth-exacting ironies will keep you engaged while touring the four galleries devoted to this exhibition.
By having us insert a penny into a hand-cranked machine that removes the word “God” in the motto “In God We Trust,” Paul Ramirez Jonas invites us to question this incursion of religion into public life while having some fun creating an alternative coin. Mark Wagner’s installation-collage made of cut up dollar bills in which George Washington poses as an Everyman, provides a “Where’s Waldo” kind of experience.
With our sense of security undermined by the 2008 global financial crisis, the issues this exhibition raises about our currency and the banking system are particularly relevant. The museum’s Associate Curator of Contemporary art, Tyler Cann, has tapped into a rich vein of artistic imagination, selecting pieces that make this a thought-provoking and visually exciting show.
In __ We Trust: Art and Money continues through March 1, 2015 at the Columbus Museum of Art. For more information, see http://www.columbusmuseum.org.