Occasioned by a visit to The Joe Bonham Project at Storefront Gallery, Sharon Butler has some interesting thoughts about the role of art versus illustration at Hyperallergic.
Earlier in the month I was working on an essay about Jarrett Min Davis, an artist who depicts battle scenes. With paintings by Francisco Goya, Otto Dix and Leon Golub as well as military-themed work by younger artists like Steve Mumford and Davis on my mind, I looked forward to The Joe Bonham Project at Storefront. Curated by New Criterion managing editor James Panero, the exhibition comprises portraits of injured United States and coalition military personnel made by members of the International Society of War Artists and the Society of Illustrators who have served in the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq. As I looked at images of multiple amputees, my heart went out to the soldiers depicted and I appreciated both the illustrators’ technical ability to evoke the injured soldiers’ pain and loss and their desire to draw attention to the challenges facing wounded veterans. At the same time, lacking a compelling point of view other than empathy, the drawings don’t rise above the illustrative to examine deeper truths about the legacies of war.