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.
In February, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis will present On the Margins, an exhibition exploring 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 will showcase 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. For example, Fallen (2004-ongoing), by the 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 Korea’s 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 the Iraqi expatriate Adel Abidin, allows viewers to become virtual tourists amidst the wreckage of his native Baghdad.
Ghost Story (2007), by Ireland’s Willie Doherty, and Bouncing Skull (2007), by Italy’s Paolo Canevari, are both haunting videos that capture the subtle, quiet horrors of life in a war zone. The Ghost of Liberty (2004), by Mexican artist Enrique Chagoya, uses the format of a traditional Mayan codex to investigate the wake of 9-11 through a mix of political, religious and popular imagery drawn from diverse cultures. Strategic Museum Plan for Baghdad (2006) by the Cuban artist Luis Cruz Azaceta, who now lives in New Orleans, ponders the fraught connections between the arts and war.
The Difference between Black and White (2005-06), by the 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.
Support for On the Margins was provided by the Charles and Bunny Burson Art Fund and by individual contributors to the Kemper Art Museum and Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. An illustrated, full-color catalogue will accompany the exhibition. The volume, distributed by the University of Chicago Press, will include a foreward by Colangelo as well as critical essays by Eleanor Heartney and Paul Krainak.
MILDRED LANE KEMPER ART MUSEUM
The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, is committed to furthering critical thinking and visual literacy through a vital program of exhibitions, publications and accompanying events. The museum dates back to 1881, making it the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi River. Today it boasts one of the finest university collections in the United States.
On The Margins will open with a reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum’s Barney A. Ebsworth Gallery, and remain on view through April 21. The Kemper Art Museum is located on Washington University’s Danforth Campus, near the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth boulevards. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed Tuesdays.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Willie Doherty will lecture about his work at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the university’s Steinberg Auditorium, located immediately adjacent to the Kemper Art Museum. In addition, Eleanor Heartney will moderate a panel discussion featuring Doherty as well as Carmon Colangelo, Willie Cole, Jane Hammond and Paul Krainak. The discussion begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Center of Contemporary Art (COCA), 524 Trinity Ave.
All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call (314) 935-4523 or visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.
WHO: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
WHAT: Exhibition, On The Margins
WHEN: Feb. 8 to April 21, 2008. Opening reception 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8.
WHERE: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, near the intersection of Forsyth and Skinker boulevards.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed Tuesdays.
COST: Free and open to the public.
INFORMATION: (314) 935-4523 or email@example.com