Laylah Ali, Untitled, 2000. Gouache on paper, 13 x 19". Private collection. Image courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York, copyright of the artist.

Willie Doherty, video still from Ghost Story, 2007. Courtesy of the artist, Alexander and Bonin, New York, and Matt’s Gallery, London.

On the Margins of Violence,Terrorism, and the Eve of Destruction

Martha Rosler, Red and White Shades (Baghdad Burning), from the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, New Series, 2004, Photomontage, 20 x 24", Courtesy of Mitchell-Innes and Nash.

Do-Ho Suh, Metal Jacket, 1992/2001, 3000 dog tags on U.S. military jacket fabric liner, ed. 6, 60 x 50 x 15", Collection of Danielle and David Ganek. Image courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York.

 

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
Washington University
One Brookings Drive
314-935-4523
St. Louis
On the Margins
February 8-April 21, 2008

By LIAM OTTEN

War and disaster have profoundly shaped the opening years of the 21st century. In the United States and abroad, acts of violence and terrorism as well as natural catastrophes have resulted in large-scale destruction and displacement affecting the lives of millions.

On the Margins explores the impact of war and disaster through the work of a diverse range of contemporary artists. Curated by Carmon Colangelo — a nationally known printmaker as well as dean of the university's Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts — the exhibition showcases more than a dozen works, ranging from prints and photographs to video and large-scale installations, by ten artists from around the world.

Several installations play against traditional approaches to war memorial. Fallen (2004-ongoing), by American artist Jane Hammond, comprises a large field of brightly colored leaves, each bearing the name of a soldier killed in Iraq. Similarly elegiac is Metal Jacket (1992/2001), by South Korean Do-Ho Suh, which consists of 3000 dog tags stitched to the liner of a U.S. military jacket. Abidin Travels: Welcome to Baghdad (2006), an interactive video installation by Iraqi expatriate Adel Abidin, allows viewers to become tourists amidst the wreckage of Baghdad.

Ghost Story (2007), by Ireland's Willie Doherty, and Bouncing Skull (2007), by Italian Paolo Canevari, are both haunting videos that capture the quiet horrors of life in a war zone.

The Ghost of Liberty (2004), by Mexican Enrique Chagoya, uses the format of a Mayan codex to investigate the wake of 9-11 through political, religious, and popular imagery from diverse cultures. Strategic Museum Plan for Baghdad (2006) by Cuban Luis Cruz Azaceta, now living in New Orleans, ponders the connections between the arts and war.

The Difference between Black and White (2005-06), by African-American artist Willie Cole, is a strikingly formal piece, constructed from hundreds of old shoes, that subtly alludes to the meditative mandalas of Tibetan Buddhism.

Laylah Ali, a Washington University alumnus, explores the tension between violence and social revolution in a series of simple yet meticulously crafted gouache drawings. Finally, Martha Rosler's Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, New Series (2004) is a suite of satiric photomontages that embed militaristic imagery within the trappings of upper middle class luxury.

Martha Rosler, Lounging Woman, from the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful, New Series, 2004, Photomontage and C-Print, 61 x 51 cm, Edition of 10 + 2 AP.

Jane Hammond, detail from Fallen, 2004-ongoing. Color ink jet print, printed from digital file recto and verso, on archival paper, cut, with matte medium, Jade glue, fiberglass strand, sumi ink, and additional handwork in acrylic paint and gouache, high density foam, cotton, muslin, cotton thread, foamcore, and handmade cotton rag paper; dimensions variable. Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchase, with funds from Sarah Ann and Werner Kramarsky, Mr. and Mrs. David Schiff, Melissa and Robert Soros, Marion C. and Charles Burson, Toby Devan Lewis Foundation, The Judith Rothschild Foundation, Nora and Guy Lee Barron, Pam Joseph and Rob Brinker, Greg Kucera, Larry Yocom, and Ted and Maryanne Ellison Simmons.

Willie Cole, The Difference between Black and White, 2005-06, Shoes, wood, metal, screws, and staples, 85 x 16", Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York. Photo by Jason Mandella.