Painting a Protest
05.20.13 4:10 PM ET
Tahrir Square and the Fog of Art
This painting, inspired by a view of protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, is by my friend Alexi Worth, from his solo show now up at DC Moore Gallery in New York. In the exhibition catalog, Worth says that he was especially intrigued by the strangely shaped scraps of plywood and furniture that Cairenes picked up to use as shields against Mubarak’s thugs. They remind him of the outline of American states on a map, but for me they somehow evoke shaped abstract paintings, in the kind of late-modern, Richard Tuttle mode that Worth himself doesn’t work in. Art has often seemed to have apotropaic powers, and here that’s made literal – but also absurd, given the obvious inadequacy of the protesters’ shields.
The other important component of this painting is the shadows cast by its viewers – us – onto both the surface of the picture and onto the shields depicted on it. Instead of giving us direct access to the thing it shows, here art seems to keep us at one remove, reminding us always that we’re safely ensconced in a gallery, safely looking at art, rather than facing a brutal regime thousands of miles away. “I tried to make a painting of my simultaneous nearness and distance …. I wanted to do a painting where we would belatedly recognize ourselves,” says Worth in his catalog.
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