Contemporary Art and Political Views
Uploaded by trigerman on Oct 31, 2011
This essay discusses the ways in which several contemporary artists have dealt with war in their artworks.
Art has always been a legitimate means of expressing the artist’s views on current events, politics, and the government. In some cases, art has spoken out with tremendous power, as in Pablo Picasso’s classic anti-war mural “Guernica.” Art has proven to have an important voice in the public arena, though that voice is not always comfortable to listen to.
This paper examines some contemporary art that deals with war. I’ve chosen this subject because it’s rather on everyone’s mind right now, and a true consideration of the horrors of war might be useful in order to remind everyone just what’s at stake.
II The Works
I mentioned “Guernica,” which of course is Picasso’s devastating depiction of the Spanish Civil War, painted in 1939. The painting is too early for our consideration, but it leads into the Second World War, and the Holocaust.
The Holocaust is one of the most horrific events in human history, and it continues to hold a terrible fascination for us. Chicago artist Pearl Hirshfield in an “installation artist” who, in 1989, created an artwork that she hoped would allow visitors to understand and feel what it must have been like for those who were being taken to the death camp at Auschwitz.
An “installation artist” creates a total environment; a walk-through exhibit, rather than a painting or photograph. In Hirshfield’s case, she has tried to recreate the feeling that people might have had as they were rounded up and herded onto the trains to the concentration camps. Her exhibition is on-going; the first reference I found to it was 1989, when it was described thusly:
“At the entrance to “Shadows of Auschwitz” … Hirshfield places a quote by Primo Levi. ‘Beyond the fence stand the lords of death, and not far away the train is awaiting…’ This sets the physical and emotional mood … The spectator is drawn into a darkened interior space, where the artist makes use of an array of vertical mirrors to effect dramatic changes in light and shadow … The “height” of the experience awaits the viewer at the other side of the fence, where he encounters his own reflection with numbers across his body. The numbers are the actual Auschwitz numbers …” (Shendar, PG).
It is Hirshfield’s intent, and...