Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grant v. Lee at Good Children Gallery


It was the great cataclysm of 19th century America, yet the Civil War is a mystery, a miscalculation on both sides that led to unspeakable carnage. Featuring the work of 14 artists from all over, and curated by Sophie Lvoff, this show is less about history and more about the war's psychic legacy as a subtly pervasive influence that still haunts us. For instance, Chris Domenick's CALVARY MONOLOGUES are graphite grave rubbings from Civil War era headstones with memorial inscriptions layered in  patterns that evoke the chaos of the war itself--a theme echoed in James Taylor Bonds' painting of battlefield mayhem with Civil War soldiers seemingly joined by haggard youths from later conflicts where the venues changed but the mayhem remained the same. Even so, what stood out about the Civil War was the awful intimacy of battles fought on the combatants' home turf, pitting friends or family against each other. Something of that violent intimacy is evoked by Markus Fiedler's precise beeswax sculpture of a lifesize military knife, or Grant Willing's large photos of knives resting on planks framed by dark forests. Katherine Wolkoff's large color photograph of a human-size hollow in high weeds, top, suggests the imprint of a fallen body, an eerily pastoral touch reinforced by Paul Mpage Sepuya's psychically fraught photographs of his Louisiana aunt's rural home.

Erik Kiesewetter's digital images of darkly distressed paper with boldface type announcing IT WAS NO RIOT—IT WAS A MASSACRE, top left, recall the turmoil of the times even as Rachel Jones' line drawings of Civil War soldiers, above, whimsically portray the perpetrators/victims of the carnage. Most whimsical of all is Nina Schwanse's video of herself as two drag queens acting out the roles of Grant and Lee in a bitch fight that either trivializes the conflict, or illustrates how it still pervades American life--in a show that is either thoughtfully subtle or overly vague, depending, like everything else about the war, on your perspective. ~Bookhardt 

GRANT V. LEE: Group Show of Contemporary Works Related to the Civil War, Through July 3, Good Children Gallery, 4037 St. Claude Ave., 616-7427;