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"Disasters of War"
2000-11-19 until 2001-02-25
PS1 Contemporary Art Center
Long Island City, NY, USA United States of America

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents Disasters of War: Francisco de Goya, Henry Darger, Jake and Dinos Chapman. Disasters of War, curated by P.S.1 Senior Curator Klaus Biesenbach, debuted this summer at Kunst-Werke Berlin and featured Jake and Dinos Chapman’s etchings Gigantic Fun for the first time alongside its inspiration, an original cycle of the Desastres de la Guerra by Francisco de Goya. The Chapman’s Gigantic Fun consists of 83 etchings never before exhibited in this country. The exhibition’s U.S. incarnation will also include never before exhibited works by American artist Henry Darger.

The selections included in this exhibition are from Darger’s series of watercolors The Realms of the Unreal with many never before seen in public exhibition. The watercolors themselves are a supplement to Darger’s 15,000-page epic battle between good and evil forces and echo the Boschian phantasmagoria of Dinos and Jake Chapman’s newly commissioned series of large-scale photographs: What the Hell I – IX, also included in Disasters of War.

Together, the works of the Chapmans, Goya and Darger mediate a selection of horrific events in our history. With each artist, the frenetic chaos, pathos and terror of war are made palpable for examination. The Desastres de la Guerra cycle to be presented in this exhibition consists of 80 etchings and was created between 1810 and 1816 and printed in 1892. It is a reaction to Napoleon’s occupation of Spain and is considered the first non-heroic record of war. While Goya witnessed many atrocities first-hand, the Chapmans’ work is based in part on the Spanish master, and in part on images that, according to the artists, exist in the subconscious imaginations of most people.

Darger’s depiction of war seemingly follows the events of World War I and visually narrates The Realms of the Unreal (the full title of the work: The Story of the Vivian Girls in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal or the Glandelinian War Storm or the Glandico-Abbiennian Wars, as Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion).

Darger’s work illuminates war as it might exist in our collective psyche: where innocents are innocent and the menacing bad guys are horrifically evil. Though Darger (1892 – 1973) never directly witnessed war - he was drafted but then rejected from the Army at the beginning of World War I - he experienced it by obsessively scouring newspapers and magazines, often appropriating these images from popular culture into his work. The paintings, which took him more than 30 years to complete, span a range of time periods. They portray battles between seven heroic little girls known as the Vivian Girls who hail from a Catholic republic and the evil, butchering Glandolinians - wayward followers of the faith. The Darger works are at once naive, darkly charming, grotesque and disturbing.

For the past three years Jake and Dinos Chapman have been developing a new body of work that combines photography, sculpture and video. P.S.1 presents a part of this process: the photographic series What the Hell I - IX, consisting of nine monumental photographs illustrating war scenarios with merciless clarity. What the Hell I – IX takes its subject matter from the Chapman’s immense sculpture, Hell, 1999. The work refers to a single mass execution of Russian soldiers by the German army during World War II. In an attempt to represent the magnitude of this event, Hell presents over 10,000 hand-modelled and hand-painted toy-figurines that are assembled into a gruesome inferno of war and death on an inverted swastika.

In contrast to the embroiled complexity of the sculpture, the photographs have a relentless clarity that shocks in its depiction of mankind’s potential for evil. Hell and works stemming from the sculpture represent not the hell after death, but a worldly inferno. What the Hell I - IX was photographed by renowned photographer Norbert Schörner. The photographs were produced in collaboration with the Kunst-Werke.

Jake and Dinos Chapman are among Britain’s most successful contemporary artists. The brothers have been working together as a team since 1992. Their work has been included in numerous exhibitions, including Sensation, presented between 1997 and 1999 in London, Berlin and New York and Apocalypse currently on view at The Royal Academy of Arts in London.


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