The room is filled with images of the contorted bodies of torture victims, caskets draped in American flags and the fear- and anguish-filled faces of young men. More than 100 slogans, such as “No Blood for Oil” and “Go Home Yanky,” cry out from the walls.
These are but some of the words and images included in the highly political “The Price of Intervention: From Korea to Saudi Arabia,” a hastily organized show of avowedly anti-war posters and other works that opens Sunday at Encino’s Installations One gallery.
The exhibition, which includes about 150 political posters dealing with U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, Nicaragua, the Persian Gulf and other regions, plus original works created along similar themes by 16 local artists, is the first noteworthy art show to be organized locally around the Persian Gulf War theme.
“We all responded to the crisis of war,” said Carol Wells, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Political Graphics, noting that her co-curator, Installations One director Mickey Kaplan, postponed his existing gallery schedule to offer her space for the show.
“This exhibit literally came into being in less than a month,” said Wells, who was spurred by the Jan. 15 U.N. deadline. “I knew that regardless of what happened, we had to do something.”
Wells, whose collection of 4,000 different posters is housed at her volunteer-run center, organizes about 10 exhibitions a year around themes such as racism and women’s rights. Despite that large number of posters, the Installations One show ended up having no images in favor of U.S. intervention--a factor that she said results from the nature of those who make works in this medium.
“The pro-intervention constituencies are usually the people in power--so they don’t need posters because they have television and the media. I’m not saying there aren’t any (pro-intervention images) out there, but it’s very rare,” Wells said.
When Wells began work on “The Price of Intervention,” she didn’t have a single image dealing with the Persian Gulf.
“I had faith that some would quickly be produced,” Wells said. “And sure enough, the presses up there were already beginning to roll.”
Now, she said, the show includes five new images produced in the last couple of weeks.
The short lead time also required a leap of faith for Kaplan, who selected the local artists in the show, because he wasn’t able to see any completed works before commiting to putting them on view.
“This all came about so quickly that all I could do was call artists who I knew worked in this type of imagery,” he said, noting that a couple of painters heard about the exhibition while at war protests and simply showed up at his gallery with their works.
Several of the original works, such as Rhoda Weissman’s “Christmas 1990,” which features a skeleton Santa Claus flanked by two U.S. soldiers in camouflage fatigues holding guns, focus on the current situation. Others deal with subjects ranging from apartheid to Tian An Men Square.
“The posters are all about intervention and things happening where they shouldn’t be, so what I’ve tried to do with the original art is kind of balance the show,” said Kaplan. “I’ve got works about Nazi Germany and Tian An Men Square, places where the U.S. didn’t intervene even though many people thought we should have.”
Wells has arranged her posters chronologically, beginning with those about the Korean War and moving on to conflicts in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Grenada, Panama, the Congo, Angola and Iran. Posted with each section is a list of statistics that come from essays Wells solicited on each conflict from academics and groups such as Witness for Peace on Nicaragua.
“The Price of Intervention: From Korea to Saudi Arabia,” Installations One, 15821 Ventura Blvd., Encino, Sunday through Feb. 16. Information: (818) 981-9422.