DRISCOLL BABCOCK GALLERIES presents Contained Conflict, a group exhibition featuring works whose hauntingly beautiful exteriors belie the fact that just below the surface there exists discord and dissension. The artists in the exhibition come from diverse backgrounds and work in varied mediums, yet all invoke our instinctual and universal desire for resolution, to overcome pitfalls and seek harmony within the chaotic. Addressing tensions ranging from the global to the personal, these works become acts of rebellion- fighting to extract beauty from the most tumultuous political and psychological situations.
The subtly refined photographs from Wafaa Bilal’s Ashes Series depict models constructed by the artist based on a set of 10 mass-syndicated images documenting the destruction of Iraq. Taking cues from photomontages created by German Dadaists in the wake of World War I, Bilal has reconstructed and rearranged these images, creating an interactive visual narrative exposing the powerful link between the media and public opinion, and challenging our sense of perception. By withdrawing the human figures present in the original photographs and replacing them with 21 grams of human ashes scattered in each model, Bilal’s images become static and calm – almost peaceful.
Several artists offer meditative reflections on the psychologically-charged relationship between remembrance and denial, erasure and violence. Harriet Bart’s DRAWN IN SMOKE, 2010 at first glance appears to be a series of delicate abstractions, but is in fact an elegiac homage to the lives lost in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, one of the deadliest industrial disasters in U.S. history. Bahar Behbahani’s dream-like images reflect the complex political and individual desire to both remember and forget, chronicling the violent images of her childhood in Tehran in an attempt to find beauty within the maelstrom of repressed memories.
Margaret Bowland’s BABES IN THE WOODS, 2013 and Jenny Morgan’s GREAT DIVIDE, 2013 express the inner struggle to maintain independence in the face of societal emphasis on conformity and competition, eloquently drawing out a subtle force and quiet energy in their figures. Both Morgan’s bisected figure and Bowland’s lost girls embody the dualities of identity and the challenge to combine public expectations with private ones. At once heroic and trapped, strong but subdued, their subjects confront the social pressures of popular culture with a cool resolve, in the process achieving larger than life status.