new-york

“Representing Vietnam 1965–1973”

Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery, Hunter College

One of the problems with representing the Vietnam war is its resistance to the individual point of view. To render it as a stylized horror show is to risk fogging up a set of events of incredible detail. To present a critique of this subject in documentary guise automatically numbs us with the moral sledge hammer of raw brutality. Filmic representations have semi-solved the problem by mildly rewriting a basic likeness of war gleaned from shared sources, mainly TV news coverage. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, 1979, and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, 1987, in particular, managed to give Vietnam’s overly familiar surface a readable if idiosyncratic expression. Film, video, and photography are decoys of memory whose transparency better suits this sirenlike task, while drawing, painting, collage, and sculpture are too artful from the outset. If, for instance, Picasso’s Guernica,

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