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Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Imprint of War at the University Art Gallery

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2011 at 1:30 PM

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This student-curated exhibit strives to remind us of what it means to live in a war-driven society. 

The project -- conceived and installed by students in the University of Pittsburgh's Museum Studies Seminar -- began with the University Art Gallery's permanent collection and the 17th-century Jacque Callot print series Miseries of War. 

Chronicling religiously motivated atrocities during Europe's Thirty Years War, Callot's work was selected as a foundation upon which other artists' collections were applied, demonstrating centuries of resonance between the responses to war. 

 "The interconnectedness between artists who address war was something we wanted to explore," says seminar student Lucy Peterson.

Among the contributors, Los Angeles-based Sandow Birk and Kansas City-based Nicholas Naughton display works that range from intentionally crude to painstakingly detailed. Most striking are Birk's 8-foot- by-4-foot woodblock prints from his 2007 series The Depravities of War, thoughtfully displayed in the Frick Fine Arts Building rotunda. The prints reference rural scenes from Callot's Miseries with modern, urban additions of Golden Arches, ATMs and military-recruiting tables advertising "free college" in exchange for service. 

Birk is familiar to local audiences from his illuminated-Koran series, displayed earlier this year at The Andy Warhol Museum.

Local artists Andrew Ames, Dan Buchanan and Susanne Slavick were also invited to contribute to Imprint of War. Slavick, a Carnegie Mellon art professor and painter, contributes the mixed-media series Equus. It's a commentary on history's conquerors, their silhouettes painted against digital print backdrops of car skeletons, twisted by detonation. Her goal is to address how well we perceive world cultures.

"It's hard to understand why we do the things we do, but we tend to forget our own history, which makes it impossible to respect someone else's," says Slavick. "When we talk about the war in Afghanistan, we're talking about the origins of civilizations." 

Slavick is also guest curator for Out of Rubble, a exhibition of work by international artists addressing the cost of war that opens Friday at Downtown's Space Gallery.

 " It's interesting to be part of the lineage Callot established with Miseries," Slavick says. "At the time, he used printmaking technology to mass-produce images and disseminate awareness." As artists, we need to use whatever tools we can to form a collective voice against indifference." 

The Imprint of War: Responses in Print continues through Mon., Dec. 5, at the Frick Fine Arts Building, on Schenley Drive, in Oakland (imprintofwar.wordpress.com/).

Out of Rubble opens with a 6-8 p.m. reception on Fri., Dec. 2, at Space Gallery, 812 Liberty Ave., Downtown (www.spacepittsburgh.org).

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