The Daily Aztec

Downtown gallery welcomes ‘depravities’

by Kayleigh Venne, Staff Writer

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War and conflict tend to be recurring themes found throughout various works of art.

Los Angeles artist, Sandow Birk, has depicted the theme of war and its aftermath throughout two series’ of his artworks featured in the exhibit, “Sandow Birk: Depravities & Monuments.”

This exhibit consists of selected works from “The Depravities of War” and “Imaginary Monuments” and is curated by Professor Tina Yapelli.

The exhibit is featured in San Diego State’s Downtown Gallery through Jan. 29, 2017.

The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Monday through Thursday.

Located on West Broadway, the gallery features various exhibits and lectures throughout the year sponsored by Arts Alive, the School of Art + Design and the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts.

Admission is free and open to the public.

“Depravities & Monuments” consists of Birk’s commentary on the Iraq war and the aftermath that it had on society.

Birk infers from experiences in his lifetime to demonstrate his negative feelings toward the destructive ramifications of violence and bloodshed in war.

The woodcut prints throughout “The Depravities of War” tell a gruesome narrative.

There are fourteen pieces in the series each titled with just a single word to showcase the sequential stages of war and the damage that follows.

The series begins with “Obsession” and shows the public’s fixation and support of the Iraq war.

Crowds of people have formed a line to enlist for the army at a table with a sign that reads, “Enlist army, free college.”

“Preparation” and “Invasion” follow, eventually leading to the final stages of war, “Humiliation” “Investigation” “Execution” and finally “Repercussion.”

The last prints show a man hanging from a rope with an audience surrounding him in support of his execution.

Birk successfully recreates the new violent mentality that society took on after the war took place in this piece.

“I’m very much impressed by the amount of historic and current references reflected throughout his works,” public administration senior Donny Chen said. “I am also impressed by the way he ironically portrays America’s ‘greatness.’”

The final print shows a crowd of people in wheelchairs and on crutches, clearly suffering physical consequences of the war.

The crowd surrounds a sign that reads, “Veteran’s Services” and the mood is visibly grimmer than the first print in the series.

The second series featured in the exhibit, “Imaginary Monuments,” is an ongoing project that began in 2011.

The series is especially striking and consists of futuristic drawings.

These pieces showcase new proposed laws and treaties to regulate society on a global scale. The series eerily parallels the “New World Order” conspiracy theory that refers to one totalitarian world government.

An etching titled, “Proposal for a Monument to the Treaty of Outer Space,” displays a large monument portraying various articles to govern celestial bodies in our universe.

The piece causes the viewer to wonder if our society does, in fact, have the potential to move toward one government ruling over not only the entire world, but planets as well.

“Proposal for a monument to the NYPD,” addresses the issue of equal rights in our society today.

In the piece, the monument has the letters “FTP” on it and looks as if it is about to crumble and fall apart.

Graffiti covers the monument that reads, “Kill cops,” “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter.”

It is clear that Birk referenced the recent police brutality and Black Lives Matter movement that is currently happening throughout the nation.

“The Imaginary Monuments were really interesting,” La Mesa resident Kat Stange said. “I felt that it really reflected what’s going on in our society. I’d definitely want to see more of his work.”

“The Forgotten Garden of Treaties Never Ratified by the United States” and “Proposal for a Monument to Ending Mass Incarceration” are among other works found in “Imaginary Monuments.”

Birk uses his voice as an artist to demonstrate his political views and feelings on our government and society. He does so in a raw and captivating way.

To learn more about his work, the public may attend a lecture by Sandow Birk himself on Friday, Dec. 2 at SDSU in Storm Hall West room 011.

Birk will also be giving an exhibition tour at noon on Dec. 2 at SDSU’s Downtown Gallery.

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