“Masters of War,” an exhibition curated by PrattMWP College of Art & Design Alumnus Brian Cirmo
“Masters of War,” an exhibition curated by PrattMWP College of Art & Design Alumnus Brian Cirmo, features regional artists who explore, comment on, and question a multitude of perspectives on war, human conflict, and our attraction to war as a cultural phenomenon. The show also includes works by PrattMWP Alumnus Colin C. Boyd and PrattMWP Professor of Sculpture Daniel Buckingham. Buckingham describes his neon piece “…..this form appears at first glance to be a very familiar object; the ubiquitous neon sign that hangs in business windows luring us to a purchase. The large circular medallion, based on Persian and Islamic design confronts the viewer with neon Arabic script that radiates a cool green light. It spells out the phrase, ‘Standing in the Dark,’ the angst-ridden emotional state of living in a world where the threat of terrorism is embedded in our psyche. In Persian and Islamic culture, the color green signifies faith, nurturing and rebirth. Do we give in to fear or do we resist the notion of ‘other’ based on a language and culture that is foreign to us?”
The exhibition will be on display at ACG from Friday, November 3 to Friday, December 1. An opening reception will be held Friday, November 3 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; the event is free and open to the public.
Artists in “Masters of War:”
Darcie Abbatiello, Colin C Boyd, Daniel Buckingham, Brian Cirmo, Danny Goodwin, Sean Hovendick, Mike Millspaugh, Michael Oatman, Gina Occhiogrosso, Ryan Parr, Ken Ragsdale, Jamie Rodriguez, Beth Scher, Jill Shoffiett, Jeff Starr, & Jeff Wigman.
“Masters of War” Curator Statement:
You would be hard pressed to find a period in human history when humans weren’t engaged in war. Whether it be for land, food, natural resources, pride, weapons, power, money, survival, or ideology, humans have been engaged in an endless war.
We are at a time in Modern history when war images are ubiquitous in our culture. These images come by way of social media, film, television, magazines, newspapers, and from old family photographs and heirlooms of wars past. For a growing number of people, these war images are taking shape outside their front doors. War images are a staple in our global society, a staple that has endured for the past forty thousand years of human history. This exhibition brings together sixteen regional artists who explore, comment on, and question a multitude of perspectives on war, human conflict, and our attraction to war as a cultural phenomenon.
World War I signifies an important moment in terms of war imagery. During this time, artists were commissioned as Captains in the Corps of Engineers and were sent to Europe to record the events of the war through paintings, drawings, and other media. This was the genesis of the interest America, as well as its allies, had in compiling a collection of War Art. This practice continued throughout modern American warfare including: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and current conflicts.
The compulsion to record, express or question human conflict through visual art was not new to 20th century westerners. Cave paintings that date back tens of thousands of years depict human figures pierced with arrows and spears, raising the age-old question: is war a component of human nature or is it an unfortunate byproduct of human experience? Beginning with these prehistoric cave paintings, we can trace war imagery throughout a large portion of human existence: we see the very first unmistakable war artifacts come out of Mesopotamia; Ancient Egypt gives us their artifacts, drawings, and written language which give light to their deep spirituality, belief in the afterlife, and their militaristic tendencies; Ancient Greece adorned their abundant architecture with great battle scenes; Renaissance masters flooded their pictures with the mixture of human conflict and religion; and once you have seen Goya’s Disasters of War prints from the early 19th century, they are hard to forget. Finally, we look to the 20th and 21st century artist, separate from their government’s commissioned artist Captains, who continue with an infatuation, in one shape or another, with human conflict and war. This infatuation is prevalent in countless modern and contemporary art works, from such pieces as Picasso’s Guernica to Peter Saul and Nancy Spero’s Vietnam War imagery.
Sometime ago, while listening to Bob Dylan’s Masters of War, the namesake of this exhibition, I began to think about the history of war as seen through the eyes of the cave painters, the Egyptians, and all of our ancestors, as well as our contemporaries. This thought process redefined Dylan’s definition of the “Masters of War”. I was compelled to think of the “Masters of War” not as those despicable and selfish Masters Dylan talks about in his song: the ones who “build the big guns, the death planes, and all the bombs”; the ones who “build to destroy and lie and deceive”; the ones who “hide in their mansions while the blood of the young is buried in the mud”. No, the Masters of War that I had in mind are the Master Artists of War.
The Master Artists who have been compelled, compulsively so, to depict war and record it for posterity.
The Master Artists who fought tyranny and injustice through their art.
The Master Artists who seek to express peace, love, and empathy through their art.
The Master Artists who gave voices to the victims of war.
The Master Artists who laid out in front of its audience the horror and consequences of war.
The Master Artists who question cultural norms; who teach us about human survival, victory, history, law, and human limits.
The Masters of War in this exhibition are artists who use the rich and vast history of human conflict to build powerful and meaningful work that speaks to our collective unconscious and human condition.
– Brian Cirmo, Guest Curator