Hard Times is a group exhibition featuring works by Paolo Arao, George Grosz, Chris Hammerlein, Martin McMurray and Mike Peter Smith.
In a world where the cycle of violence seems never ending, Hard Times explores how brutal acts: recent or historical, random or calculated, inspire artists to examine the vulnerability of life, the certainty of death and the hope of redemption.
Paolo Arao’s diptych, C, is a drawing of a summer 2006 Daily News front page, showing the victim of a stabbing on New York City’s C train. Emergency workers hold the young man’s collapsing body: life and death are in the balance. The pose of the victim reminded Arao of The Entombment, by Caravaggio (the left drawing of the diptych). Christ’s body, still robust, has not yet passed from this world. His attendants are filled with anxiety and uncertainty.
The Rut, a series of paintings by Martin McMurray, is a grouping of fictitious magazine covers. In stark black and white, against the red and white Rut logo, scenes from a Middle Eastern conflict unfold. A man in a business suit, up against a brick wall, throws up his arms in anxious frustration, attempting to tune it all out.
In *George Grosz’s drawing, Street Scene with Hanged Man, 1912, a narrow German street is filled with people and activity, while a hanged figure above portends of even darker events to come. The crowd seems oblivious, whether out of fear, shame or guilt.
Mike Peter Smith’s sculpture is a life-sized skull upon which a Lilliputian village of civilization resides. The grouping of houses on the cranium appears to be a pleasant and inviting hamlet. The small town is at odds with the morose skull, a traditional vanitas symbol of life’s brevity. In this juxtaposition, not only is the transience of life suggested, but also the finite nature of culture and civilization.
Chris Hammerlein’s drawings depict scenes from the passion of Christ. Their raw and immediate quality give an urgent potency to a story of life, death and redemption that is celebrated as often as it is ignored.