I’ll be the first to admit that modern art sometimes goes right over my head. I have seen some things described as “modern art” that I couldn’t figure out the meaning or symbolism of even if you asked me to make something up. For me, having some sort of theme or focus really helps organize and consolidate my thoughts about what it is I’m seeing and its significance to myself, as well as other individuals or groups of people. Currently on display at the Hirshhorn is an exhibit entitled DAMAGE CONTROL: Art and Destruction Since 1950 and it is the first modern art exhibit in a long time that really inspired me to analyze what I was seeing in the context of society as a whole.
jpeg bb03, 2007
Chromogenic print with Diasec
72 7/8 x 98 1/4 in. (185.1 x 249.6 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and David Zwimer, New York/London
No need to adjust your screen, that photo is intentionally distorted, and that’s its point. Looking at this on a computer screen does not come close to the impact it has in person. It is a giant picture of a bombing purposefully blurred as a comment on how computers have distorted our sense of violence and destruction and how ok we are with destruction as long as it doesn’t happen to us, or at least that’s what it made me think about.
Destruction is a very interesting theme in that the word or thought of actual destruction can make you uncomfortable, even though it is such a part of daily life. It shapes the present and will continue to shape the future. You cannot re-develop downtown unless you take down some of the buildings already there. Nature destroys towns and cities every year across the world and nature eventually reclaims everything that man abandons. The act of destruction is almost always the precursor to the act of creation.
From sculpture, to film, to photography, to drawings or paintings there are so many different mediums on display that something will reach out and grab you. People will react very differently to what they see in this exhibit depending on their frame of reference. The works I chose to look at for an extended period you may ignore, something that I walked right past, may speak directly to you and grab your attention for minutes or hours. I’d recommend going into the exhibit with this question on your mind: What are the negative and positive effects of destruction on modern society? In all, this exhibit will evoke some sort of an emotional response from you, whether it’s the social or political commentary, discussion of human nature, or any other theme on display that gets you. What that is, will be up to you.