Art on the Frontlines

One of Seth Tobocman's images on display at the Contemporary Art Galleries shows two men fighting while holding a tank and a bomb, with the words “Their Weapons Won’t Save You!”

One of Seth Tobocman’s images on display at the Contemporary Art Galleries shows two men fighting while holding a tank and a bomb, with the words “Their Weapons Won’t Save You!”

In determining how it would collaborate with the Humanities Institute for the weeklong program “War and its Meanings” from April 21 to 25, staff at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center turned to the Archives and Special Collections department.

A recent opportunity for the Dodd Center to acquire a series of works by radical comic book artist and illustrator Seth Tobocman inspired the idea of looking at a broad range of artistic views on the theme of war.

“One of the things that makes UConn’s human rights program unique is the participation of our arts and humanities departments, such as Philosophy, History, English, and now increasingly the Art & Art History and Dramatic Arts departments,” says Glenn Mitoma, director of the Dodd Center, which is also home to the Human Rights Institute. “We wanted to highlight those contributions to get students in those majors excited about human rights on campus.”

The artistic portion of the week is titled “War, Struggle, and Visual Politics: Art on the Frontlines.” In addition to Tobocman’s works, which will be exhibited at the Contemporary Art Galleries, it includes photos by Stephen Dupont from his “Axe Me Biggie” and “Why am I a Marine?” series now on display at the UConn Co-op Bookstore in Storrs Center.

“The World is Being Ripped,” by Seth Tobocman, was originally spray painted on the sidewalks of New York City’s Lower East Side in the 1980s.

“The World is Being Ripped,” by Seth Tobocman, was originally spray painted on the sidewalks of New York City’s Lower East Side in the 1980s.

Tobocman, best known for his “World War 3 Illustrated” series, is among a group of artists represented during this year’s “A Week in the Humanities” program. The week’s events include workshops by the artists, a panel discussion among scholars, and keynote remarks on April 24 by award-winning journalist Christopher Hedges and editorial cartoonist Dwayne Booth, also known by his pen name, “Mr. Fish.”

“The World is Being Ripped” is a series of 14 spray and stencil works by Tobocman that will be exhibited at the Contemporary Art Galleries for the first time since it was originally created in the 1980s by being spray painted in black and red on the sidewalks of New York City’s Lower East Side.

The exhibition title image depicts the world being broken apart by two individuals chomping down on Earth. Another strong image in the series includes two men fighting while holding a tank and a bomb with the words “Their Weapons Won’t Save You!”

“‘The World is Being Ripped’ was originally a response to the Cold War,” Tobocman says. “But it came to address a larger question: In a society as predatory and self-destructive as this one, can there be any basis for morality? Is ethical behavior even possible in such a context? I like to think that in adopting these images as their emblems, people are answering that question in the affirmative.”

Presentations will include “The Veteran Aesthetic: A Conversation about Art, Politics, and War,” by Chantelle Bateman, a poet and artist, and Aaron Hughes, an artist, at the Konover Auditorium in the Dodd Center on April 21 at 1:30 p.m. Both Bateman and Hughes are veterans of the Iraq War and participants in the Warrior Writers project and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Drawings by Hughes are on display at the Humanities Institute library, located on the third floor of the Philip E. Austin Building.

“The visual arts offer a unique way to look at something that has real impact — war and its many aspects, such as violent conflict, geo political implications, and the impact on the community,” says Brendan Kane, assistant professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and associate director of the Humanities Institute. “War is something that affects all of us, and the arts allow us better to speak with one another as we grapple with these issues.”

For more information, go to the Humanities Institute website.