trace the history of warfare
Victoria Donohoe, Philadelphia Inquirer, posted Sunday, Jan. 14,
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, whose focus has so
often been on abstract art, is changing direction a bit with a
significant solo show of new representational figure sculpture
honoring fallen G.I.s and other soldiers.
mere existence of the show may mean abstraction is going to have
to move over and make room for a different kind of representational
sculpture, even though much of the excitement of these simplified
figure sculptures traces back to classical sources.
14 featured bronzes, titled A Requiem for a Soldier, come from
artist Julia Stratton of Philadelphia. She is a sculptor who stuck
to creating recognizable figures and faces in bitter resistance
to abstraction's longtime popularity and lucrative returns. Until
Stratton's work surfaced, DCCA had been trying for years to find
art able to address the theme of war yet at the same time focus
on the spiritual and human instead of the overly political aspects.
these relatively small works refer to warfare today and down through
the ages, Stratton's stylish and dramatic horseman, and her running
and walking figures both pursued and in pursuit were inspired
by Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor. Each bronze in turn relates
to one of the 14 sections of that requiem. And viewers are invited
to listen to an audio recording of it, as well as to reflect on
links between war and religion.
achievement in this series of works is that Stratton, instead
of using the figure as just another object, is brave enough to
admit being concerned with the condition of man. For her, attachment
to reality is hardly a manacle for the mind. This is an exceptionally
Center for the Contemporary Arts, 200 S Madison, Wilmington. To
March 4. Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat 10-5, Wed & Sun noon-5. Adults
art critic Victoria Donohoe at The Inquirer, 800 River Rd., Conshohocken,
Pa. 19428. © 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service
sources. All Rights Reserved.
two artists' different responses to war
By CHRISTOPHER YASIEJKO, The News Journal
Sunday, January 14, 2007
who work with words or paint or bronze will forever try to reflect
the actions and effects of those who work with bullets and bombs.
Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, 200 S. Madison St.,
Wilmington, has two exhibitions related to war. Some pieces clearly
reflect their creators' reactions to Iraq, where President Bush
this week vowed to send another 20,000 soldiers. Many pieces,
however, carry an emotional relevance that reaches across generations.
Requiem for a Soldier," a collection of 14 bronze sculptures
by Julia Stratton of Philadelphia, seems the more universal of
the two exhibitions. (It is open through March 4; "Baghdad
and other unfinished business," by Peter Williams, a professor
of art at the University of Delaware, is open through Feb. 4.)
36, has been enamored with Mozart's "Requiem Mass in D Minor"
since she was a child; her mother, a classical pianist, might
have enabled her habit. When she began making war-related bronze
sculptures -- all of her pieces are small, displayed atop pedestals
or hung on small swaths of wall -- Stratton realized she could
make a connection between her work and the music. It gave her
that thread artists so often seek. "It allowed me,"
she says, "to explore different sides of the motif."
so at the DCCA, in a small room called the E. Avery Draper Showcase,
visitors are encouraged to borrow a CD player loaded with the
Requiem's 14 parts, each sequentially corresponding with one of
Stratton's sculptures. ("In my mind," she says, "it's
absolutely inseparable from the music.")
first piece, "Introitus (Soldiers Running)," depicts
three soldiers bearing weapons and moving into battle. It mirrors
No. 14, "Communio (Soldiers Running)," which has three
soldiers running away from the rest of the exhibit. It's not clear
if they're victorious, just as the exhibition as a whole doesn't
seem politically motivated.
third piece, "Dies Irae (The Charge)," matches well
the music to which it's attached. A chorus of voices is driven
by furious strings and horns; a cluster of soldiers, some with
shields, all with spears upright, surges forward. A sword-wielding
angel atop a pole leads the group. Three horses and a dog assist.
the wall is "Tuba Mirum (All That is Hidden)," which
is two-dimensional but for an egg-shaped hole with a heap of bodies,
many twisted, a few curled into fetal position, and a man running
in the distance with a bugle in hand.
pieces that beg for longer looks are "Confutatis (Last Hour)"
and "Hostias (Suicide Bomber)." The former is a sort
of obliquely situated diorama, open but for a wall of flames centered
on the far left corner -- its many scenes include people with
torches searching the streets and houses, a family huddled in
its cellar, others climbing out a window or propping a chair against
latter, perhaps the most resonant for contemporary viewers, depicts
a man, nude but for a vest of explosives, frozen atop a sphere
and a cloud in an Olympian manner: looking skyward, running, right
arm outstretched as if making an offering. The left thumb and
index finger pinch a short, taut string attached to the vest.
The accompanying music seems suited for genuflection.
sizes of Stratton's pieces, quite the opposite of the iconic statues
that enlarge moments of battle, allow visitors to remove and insert
themselves at will. The warring seems sadder, even avoidable.
And the smooth, dark, dense surfaces at the same time suggest
and other unfinished business," meanwhile, is both more and
less defined. Williams, who less than three years ago moved from
Detroit to Wilmington, chose to identify his war. But to assume
a political stance could fully explain his oil-on-canvas paintings
would be foolish. The phrase "and other unfinished business"
is an apt addendum, for Williams does nothing less than open his
mind and some of what swirls within it: politics, race, war and
of his works include what seem like bulbous beings. He uses swooping
strokes and gives them disturbingly alert eyes. One, "Maurice,"
is awash with shades of brown and some pinkish features on a being
whose head seems to have snapped back. Whatever Williams imagined
it to be, it is dead.
is in many of these pieces -- in "NY Night," the grey
buildings have eyes; "Night Driving, Baghdad" gives
life to what seems meant to be a car, and a green area near its
center suggests night-vision goggles. With "Facsimile,"
Williams painted a large canvas with two openings to look like
wooden doors with windows. Faces and fists float near words such
as ration, repair, rational and reparation.
are so many things that happen and overlap," Williams says,
"and the tragedy sometimes gets lost."
brings viewers closer to that tragedy with "Bombscape"
and "Ribbon," which on small canvases display colorful,
messy chunks of oil; it isn't difficult to imagine scattered human
remains in their place.
and Stratton created their works independently of each other.
Neither has seen the other's project, both of which have been
at the DCCA since December. Stratton's seems a bit more linear,
Williams' more abstract. But Williams' self-appointed task, he
says, was "to be almost a history painter." His use
of visual metaphors and his subjective mixing of world events
and personal experiences, then, might be a more accurate representation
of how history is recorded.
©2007, The News Journal.