Galerie Lelong to Present Nancy Spero's WAR SERIES as Part of Frieze Masters: Spotlight 2013, 10/17-20
For Frieze Masters: Spotlight 2013, curated by Adriano Pedrosa, Galerie Lelong presents American artist Nancy Spero's fiercely provocative War Series (1966-1970). The War Series, works in gouache and ink on paper, was originally inspired by Spero's outrage at world political events of the 1960s, more specifically the Vietnam War, but their imagery transcends these specific events and expresses a universal horror in response to oppression and war. Spero leveled the claim that the cost to humanity was the same no matter what war or era.
Nancy Spero began the War Series when she and her husband, Leon Golub, returned to New York City from Paris in 1964. As an artist and activist, Spero was struck by the difference between how the war was presented in the US than in Europe, and specifically, how the conflict was mediated on television. As a form of immediate protest, Spero layered images of helicopters, male and female figures, crematoria, and bombs, both deadly and evanescent, along with references to past wars including World War II. In these works, she emphasized the female (in the often male-centric domain of war), which later became the sole subject of her work.
"For five years, from 1966-1970, I painted (gouache and ink on paper) The War Series: Bombs and Helicopters. These works were intended as manifestos against our [the US] incursion into Vietnam, a personal attempt at exorcism. The bombs are phallic and nasty, exaggerated sexual representations of the penis: heads with tongues sticking out violent depictions of the human (mostly male) body. The clouds of the bomb are filled with screaming heads vomiting poison onto the victims below, etc. The helicopter become anthropomorphic-a primeval (prime-evil) bird or bug wreaking destruction. I imagined that Vietnamese peasants saw it as a giant monster. I viewed the helicopter as the symbol of this war-the omni-present image of the chopper hovering, transporting soldiers, napalming villages, gunning fleeing peasants or picking up wounded and dead US soldiers."-Nancy Spero