View of “Cathy Wilkes,” 2011. Photo: Tom Little.

Cathy Wilkes

View of “Cathy Wilkes,” 2011. Photo: Tom Little.

ON JULY 1, 1916, British and French soldiers charged the German front lines near the River Somme, expecting to hasten their victory in the Great War. Instead, the disastrous Battle of the Somme would become one of the bloodiest engagements in European military history, resulting in over a million dead soldiers. Though the losses were massive in scale, the burden was often borne by small communities whose entire populations of young men had been transplanted to the front (more than five thousand of those wounded on the first day of battle, for example, came from a single area in the province of Ulster, Ireland). The strategic payoff of the months-long massacre? The front line advanced a mere six miles.

This horrific event provides the thematic scaffolding on which Cathy Wilkes has arranged a powerful accumulation of objects at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, on view until

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