Clayton Campbell; After Abu Ghraib #18 (2008); 46 x 66 inches; Digital Print; Courtesy of the Artist
01-22-09 through 03-27-09
Nichols Gallery, Broad Center & Lenzner Family Art Gallery, Atherton Hall
By intentionally corrupting the digital files of these insistently barbarous Abu Ghraib pictures, Los Angeles-based artist Clayton Campbell transformed them into large-scale, geometric, painterly works. Bands of translucent reds, blues and purples migrate across the surface, shredding and obscuring as they go, allowing an indulgence in sensuous abstraction, a short-lived reprieve from the heinous acts. Resembling ancient Mesopotamian sculptural fragments—like those looted at the beginning of the U.S. “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the bodies detach and re-combine in surprisingly exquisite arrangements. The bands, reminiscent of those used to adjust the color image on our televisions, imply our readiness to accommodate and compromise our points of view. In a post-9/11 world, are we willing to accept torture and surrender our civil liberties? What are our true colors and how much are we willing to adjust them? Campbell‘s formal filter of distortion becomes a metaphor for averting our eyes—something we are only too eager to do.