The artist J. S. G. Boggs died last week at sixty-two. As the New York Times’s obit headline put it, HE MADE MONEY. LITERALLY. Boggs, who argued that every banknote was a work of art, drew counterfeit bills with an intricate attention to detail. His craftsmanship was only somewhat undermined by the fact that his fakes were one-sided, and that they contained jokes like ONE FUNDRED DOLLARS or DO YOU HEAR ANYTHING BEING SAID HERE, OR AM I EMPTY NOW? IS ANYBODY HOME? HELLO?
For many artists, mere imitation would be enough—as I write this, for instance, Mike Bouchet has an exhibition at Marlborough Gallery that features nothing but the smell of money—but Boggs was determined to turn theory into praxis. He liked to spend his fakes out in the world, to watch people squirm when he pressed them to accept his “Boggs bills” as “real” money. The art wasn’t in the drawing; it was in unlocking the door to a shadow dimension, one where all of us are made to feel the chilly emptiness at the center of the almighty dollar. Read More