Bullets shooting bullets6/1/2017
“Ruptures” is the title of the Des Moines Art Center’s latest show, through Sept. 3. It’s also a keyword in creative theory from Japanese aesthetics, to Hegel’s “Dialectic” and Arthur Koestler’s “Act of Creation.” Creativity depends upon conflict — ideological, cosmic or artistic. An exhibition that directly addresses this point is difficult to pull off. This one, filled with huge pieces of art from all over the world, is very well done.
Curator Alison Ferris says that the word “ruptures” is being used frequently now by sociologists, philosophers and political scientists to explain unexpected and irreversible events that disrupt the continuity of institutions and tradition. “The artists included in this show do not represent or describe specific events; rather they have made art that embodies the tensions and fears that are flooding our collective consciousness,” she explained, mentioning war, terrorism, racism, immigration, pollution, epidemics, economic crisis, and mental illness among the things causing such tensions and fears.
Chronicles of the battle of Gettysburg talk about rifle fire being so intense that bullets collided with each other in the air. That inspired The Propeller Group, founded in Vietnam, to comment on that war. Their piece “AK-47 vs. M16” is made of fragments of bullets from those weapons, used by opposing sides in the war, with ballistic gel and custom vitrine. The gel is made to imitate the density of human flesh so that this sculpture captures the moment of impact when lethal weapons rupture human dreams. The interaction is shown in a dramatic video that is as surrealistic as the conflict itself.
Roger Hiorns sculpts with BMW engines salvaged from car wrecks. He bathes them in copper sulfate turning the steel blue and green. Those media are ironic in that copper sulfate used to be used as a healing agent. Laura Fensterstock transposes artificial stalagmites on 19th century furniture made for collectors of many odd things that people collected in the 1800’s. “The idea is to illustrate a dichotomy of nature and culture,” said Ferris.
Doris Salcedo is a Columbian artist working in Chicago for the work shown here. That gives her considerable perspective for commenting on gun violence. According to her Wikipedia page, “Salcedo’s work gives form to pain, trauma, and loss, while creating space for individual and collective mourning.” She has done dramatic pieces about ghosts of civil war and concentration camps, an invention of the Spanish in Cuba according to Salcedo. Here she creates a handwoven silk gown, completely transparent except for ominous needles woven in.
Belinde de Bruyckere contributes the most disturbing piece to this show, and that says a lot. She sculpts freakish horses of wax, wood, wool and horse skin including a dead colt for this show that looks like it might have collided with one of Hiorns’ BMW engines. It may be unrelated, but her native Belgium leads the world in the consumption of horse meat.
Cornelia Parker is so committed to rupture art that she once had the British Army blow up her garden shed before she suspended the exploding shards into a sculpture. She also once wrapped Rodin’s “The Kiss” in one mile of string. For “Ruptures,” she made art from cracks and split milk in the streets of East Jerusalem. The milk is a play on “The Land of Milk and Honey,” Ferris posed. Steven Young Lee is a ceramics artist who works with intentionally damaged Korean pottery. Mona Hatoum is an exile artist who lays hundreds of black marbles in a circle on the floor creating a tension about disruption, and perhaps lawsuits.
For people who want their ruptures to be on specific events, also on exhibit through June 4 is “Robert Hodierne: Vietnam War Photographs” at Grinnell’s Faulconer Gallery. These photos capture the disruption of the war on the flora of country. ♦