Men Making History/Making War: 1954, sets up several levels of visual, historical and even rhetorical comparison presented in the form of a triptych or three-part panorama. To create this work I modeled a miniature version of the infamous Army McCarthy hearings in painted clay using documentary images purchased from the Bettman Archives as a source.
I then photographed this tiny tableau. Flanking the enlarged photo are two, bas-relief representations based on historical events from the same year. One relief depicts the violent, CIA supported over-throw of the legally elected, socialist government of President Arbenz in Guatemala. Needless to say, “regime change” is hardly a new concept in US foreign policy. The other bas-relief I created is based on a Life Magazine photographic spread of the reigning American artist of the 1950s, Jackson Pollock. I have always admired Pollack’s work but it is well known today that the US State Department and CIA used his art as a sort of cultural ICBM against communism during the heat of the cold war. The interrelated nature of politics and art within a larger, historical framework is key to understanding the aim of “Men Making History.” On another level however, the mix of archaic bas-relief sculpture and contemporary photographic imagery disputed, at least to my mind, the belief that artistic forms evolve in a linear manner over time. As Walter Benjamin suggests “Every age unavoidably seems to itself to be a new age.” The same might be said of artistic form. And finally, the initial reading of the work offers a composite of cold war American culture circa the mid-1950s.