Beginning April 3, two art exhibitions reflecting upon the U.S. war in Iraq will be on display at the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University – “Daniel Heyman: I am Sorry It is Difficult to Start” and “Wafaa Bilal: The Ashes Series”. Both exhibitions focus on the war's impact upon the Iraqi civilians and the role of art.
An adjunct professor at RISD, Daniel Heyman traveled in the fall of 2006 to Jordan and Turkey to interview former detainees of the Abu Gharib prison. As the men reported the details of the abuses they endured while in detention, Heyman made their portrait. Producing about a dozen portraits, he later overlaid excerpts from the mens' testimonies of abuse around the portraits. Heyman views his series as a way to personalize the horrors of the war's victims and as a way to further expose the abuse of the American soldiers at the Abu Gharib prison. The exhibition was curated by Jo-Ann Conklin.
Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal, an assistant arts professor at New York University, composed his series from ten photographs of models that the artist created from mass-syndicated images of the war. Using scenes such as Saddam Hussein's bed, or a lone hospital pillow left behind, Bilal removed the people from the photographs and replaced them with 21 grams of human ashes throughout all of the models. Twenty one grams is a reference to the supposed weight of the human soul when it leaves the body. His work brings an uneasy feel to the otherwise benign scenes of war. The exhibition was curated by Ian Alden Russell.
The exhibitions will continue until May 26. An opening reception will be held on Friday April 5 beginning at 5:30pm. The David Winton Bell Gallery is free and open to the public. Visit their website to learn about their hours, location, and past exhibitions. Providence Journal writer Bill Van Siclen wrote two reviews of the exhibitions: U.S abuses in Iraq: Two views at Brown; Portraits put a human face on the war in Iraq. The film Ghosts of Abu Ghraib which directed by Brown University alumni Rory Kennedy will be exhibited on April 18 at 5:30pm at the List Art Center Auditorium as part of the programming around these exhibitions. The film will be proceeded with a public discussion.
Continuing its long-standing relationship with the David Winton Bell Gallery, Malcolm Grear Designers created the invitations, installation graphics, catalogues, exterior sign, and banner for the exhibitions.