Adam McEwen: Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery
Schwendener, Martha, Artforum International
In a small booklet published to accompany his recent exhibition at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, Adam McEwen writes: "War. It's always been all the rage. Bomber Harris, Commando Comics, Sven Hassel and every kid who grew up in Britain of parents who survived the war knew it." McEwen's booklet also reproduces a newspaper ad memorializing real estate developer Samuel J. Lefrak ("The Vision to See / The Faith to Believe / The Courage to Do"), images of sidewalks dotted with discarded chewing gum, a view of a landscape pocked with bomb craters, and a news brief about a boy sticking a piece of gum onto a $1.5 million Helen Frankenthaler painting during a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts--as well as a digression into the life of Hassel, a Danish writer of pulp combat fiction who drove a German Panzer tank during the war. The mixture of flippancy and historical gravitas recalled the artist's last Klagsbrun outing--which included an enlarged, inverted image of Mussolini and his mistress on the gallows, as well as obituaries of undead celebrities and cheeky store signs telling customers to FUCK OFF WE'RE CLOSED--though here the scales were tipped toward gravitas.
In Self-Portrait as Bomber Harris (all works 2006), McEwen recreates an official black-and-white portrait photograph of Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, the British air marshal who oversaw the carpet bombing of German cities. Another C-print, Untitled (Dresden), an initially abstract-looking mass of white bursts against a black ground, is actually an aerial shot of fires in Dresden on the night it was bombed. Also included were two other series--a group of monochrome paintings with dirty blobs of gum flattened onto their surfaces and named after bombed German cities, and a group of nine photographs of Lefrak City, a 1960s housing development in Queens. …