Masters of War

Exhibits at the MCASD offer very different approaches to a wretched nightmare

The two war-themed exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego offer museumgoers two very different approaches to a subject that artists have focused on for centuries.

"Jane Hammond: Fallen" memorializes American soldiers who have died in the war in Iraq. Her show is about both accumulation and loss, and features an incredible display of leaf forms displayed on a low platform. Hammond began this ongoing work in 2004 by collecting leaves to represent the individual military servicemen and -women killed during the war. Hammond digitally scanned leaves and re-creates them on paper. Each leaf represents the uniqueness of every soldier and is hand-painted to resemble the original leaf.

The exhibit began with 1,500 leaves; the MCASD exhibit now has more than 4,000 leaves, representing the rise in the number of dead since the Iraq war began.

Hammond said her work is not biased but, rather, is neutral to honor the fallen soldiers. Each was collected throughout the United States and has the name of the "Fallen" on the leaves.

Sandow Birk's exhibit explores war through painting, drawing and printmaking in a unique presentation that encourages the viewer to see the war theme in a satirical way. He takes imagery and style from art history and previous artists, and incorporates modern imagery. For example, the woodblock prints in  "The Depravities of War" combine traditional woodcut techniques with present-day scenes, including Jeeps and concrete bunkers. In keeping with their sources in Goya and Callot, the imagery is brutal and grotesque, said the MCASD's Denise Montgomery.

There is a satirical realism in Birk's painting "Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Presenting His Plan for the Invasion of Iraq" that is very different from the woodcuts but provides commentary on the depravities of war, Montgomery said. The two exhibits are another way to think about the U.S. servicemen and -women with the upcoming Memorial Day in mind, she added.

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