- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2007

Violence and bloodshed exploded during Ireland’s three-decade fight (from the late-1960s to 1998) between Catholics and Protestants over Irish land, but they are now finding a way to peace — as American University Museum’s “Resolutions: New Art From Northern Ireland” shows.

Museum director and exhibit curator Jack Rasmussen traveled to Belfast, north Ireland’s major city, to put together an exhibit showing that, as he says, “times have changed.”

There he found the “old” — earlier dark and threatening murals painted on the outside of Belfast’s walls — and “new” lighter art with which younger artists, who all grew up during unsettled times, attempt to resolve the older and current political issues.

The exhibit was an ambitious task. Several of the artists — such as Willie Doherty, Sharon Kelly and Paul Seawright — movingly recall older times in their art. But others, such as Sara Greavu, Carbon Design (Michael Hogg and Philip Napier) and Brendan Jamison express what Mr. Rasmussen calls “the present resolutions.”

For example, consider Mr. Doherty’s creepy night photographs that demonstrate the old philosophical battles continue.

The catalog text tells that Mr. Doherty emerged from his childhood with haunting, fearful memories. They continue in his present work titled “Extracts From a File,” shot at night in Berlin, with only a few barely lighted buildings emerging.

He says that although they were shot in present-day Berlin, he created them as a reminder of the nighttime surveillance cameras of his youth.

Observe, also, Sharon Kelly’s moving “Hood” and “Mother.” Her intricately drawn, haunting “Hood” refers to the hundreds who formerly disappeared nightly, as in Nazi times.

Miss Kelly’s “Mother” is heartbreaking, with most of the implied head cut off by the picture’s edges.

Mr. Seawright uses photography — here, “Horizon 2002” — to create a metaphor of Northern Ireland’s, and that of other countries, destruction of their landscapes over contested land. Although this is actually a shot of Afghanistan and its present mine destruction, it could be an arid plain near an Irish city.

Other works, such as Miss Greavu’s multimedia “Shadow Puppets,” plumb a more satiric vein. As quoted in the catalog, the artist says she attempts to reconcile Northern Ireland’s ” ‘race,’ gender and sexual identities, as well as its communal identities.”

In the two videos, she uses stereotyped images of violence and protest from East and West, such as the raised fists at the 1968 Summer Olympics and horrors from the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison. The puppets come from Indonesia.

Near the videos, she carved a tiny wood, curving, many-figured sculpture that also shows the video’s brilliantly colored stereotypes. One is a black-faced musician.

Art closer to Mr. Rasmussen’s “resolution” theme is “The Soft Estate” by Carbon Design — Michael Hogg and Philip Napier. They portray a separated, yet also connected, table of wood and clamps meant to show political negotiations in Ireland and the future.

“It’s a metaphor for how far apart one can be in negotiating, but still be at the same table,” the curator says.

Humor comes into play with Mr. Jamison’s “Helicopter,” an awkward, brilliant-yellow, wool sculpture. Here, the artist takes what’s usually a weapon of war and makes it a benign domestic implement — and good for a laugh.

The show could be said to show the many faces of Northern Ireland, and a fascinating group they are.

WHAT: “Resolutions: New Art From Northern Ireland”

WHERE: American University Museum at the Katzen, Ward Circle at the corner of Massachusetts and Nebraska avenues Northwest

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, closed Mondays, through July 29


PHONE: 202/885-1300

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