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Arts & entertainment

Reactions to conflict in the world of art

Arvada Center hosts thematic, intense exhibits

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Conflict takes on more than the physical form of war — it can also be ideological, philosophical, and psychological struggle over ideas, religion and ways of life.

All manner of conflict is examined in the Arvada Center’s autumn exhibition, “Art and Conflict,” which not only provides a collection of startling images in a variety of mediums, but it also highlights the role art plays in process major and traumatic events.

“It’s a very timely exhibit, but we didn’t know the timing would end up like it did,” said Collin Parson, the center’s exhibition manager and curator. “It was planned as part of the efforts to mark 100 years since the U.S.’s entry into World War I, but it took on another resonance after the election.”

The Upper and Theatre galleries display recruitment and propaganda posters from England, France and the U.S. during the first truly global conflict of the 20th century. It’s a sample of the more than 1,438 unique creations made by more than 279 artists, all tapped by governments of the day.

“As we put this part of the exhibit together, we realized it was more applicable to today than we thought,” said Kristin Bueb, exhibition coordinator at the center.

Governments try to harness creative voices for propaganda, and that’s one of the topics artists addressed in the Main Gallery exhibit. When the center put out the call for submissions, it was open to each artist to interpret conflict in their own terms.

“We have pieces covering everything from freedom of speech, democracy and the right to protest as well as genocide and environmental concerns,” Parson said. “The politics of today resonate with a lot of what we’ve seen in the past.”

Much of the art in the exhibit is a reaction to enormous events, and so visitors will see reflections of the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II, American involvement in the war in Iraq, and of course, the 2016 election.

One of the most startling exhibits is a series of about 27 tables, with table settings, but instead of food on each plate, there are a few bones with a place and date on them. This represents the different genocides that have occurred all over the world in the 20th century, according to Genocide Watch, an organization that works to predict, prevent and stop these crimes.

“We have artist statements with each work to contextualize the work, and explain what the artist is getting at,” Bueb explained.

As both an artist and observer, Parson has learned a lot about the roles artists play in times of conflict.

“Some use art to educate, others as a kind of therapy, and others to make a statement,” he explained. “As an artist, this has motivated me to respond to conflict more in my own work.”

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