Caught in the Crossfire: Artistic Responses to Conflict at the Herbert

By Alex Oxborough | 25 January 2013

Exhibition preview: Caught in the Crossfire: Artistic Responses to Conflict, Peace and Reconciliation, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, until July 7 2013

A photo of a collage print of a black helicopter moving across a war scene
© kennardphillipps
From iconic protest images to personal reactions, the Herbert’s investigation into artist’s responses to the brutality of war leads the viewer on a challenging journey - from the home front to the frontline - as seen through the eyes of artists, soldiers and those affected by conflict.

Visitors are prompted to explore and debate weighty issues such as the impact of war, the division of land and separation of people during conflict, as well as the aftermath of war where hope emerges and lives are rebuilt.

Featuring historical works by Muirhead Bone, Graham Sutherland, and John Piper, together with pieces by contemporary artists Matthew Picton, Cornelia Parker and Banksy, the exhibition features artworks spanning the 20th century to present day.

© Peter Kennard
In an on-site, three-week residency from February 5, kennardphillipps will respond to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and explore the theme of protest against war.

“In the context of this exhibition we hope that our work will connect with art against war from the past,” say the duo. “It will show how, as artists today, there are new ways to protest against the horrors of war in the present.”

Subverting images of power, which range from helicopter gunships to smiling world leaders, the protest pieces sows how artists attempt to punch through the hollow rhetoric of phrases such as "war on terror" and "fighting for peace" to create icons of dissent. Sharp and grimly satirical, they provide rallying points for anti-war activism.

In contrast, the more personal images - featuring unnamed individuals captured at play or in unguarded moments - offer a more three dimensional look at the reality of life in a conflict zone beyond the shock and awe of the frontlines.

Condemning the puppet masters of realpolitik and celebrating the capacity of the human spirit to overcome horror, this exhibition promises a moving and mulit-faceted exploration of conflict.

Some of the works are appearing after being acquired as part of Collecting Cultures, a Heritage Lottery-funded scheme which paired the venue with Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

  • Open 10am-4pm (12pm-4pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the Herbert on Twitter @The_Herbert.
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