End of an Era

A new show at CiFo looks back at Bush's reign — and the mess he left.

The surveillance state Bush/Cheney sought to create with the Patriot Act following 9/11 seems to be the subject of Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea's two watercolor-and-pencil drawings rendered in sparse monochromatic hues.

El espacio alterado (The Altered Space) depicts a camera peeking out from under a closed elevator door.

In Untitled, from the series Garden of Mistrust, surveillance cameras snake out from inside a pair of rusted oil barrels, symbolizing the West's dependency on Middle Eastern oil and the global tensions arising from the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

From Paolo Canevari's video Bouncing Skull
Peter Harholdt
From Paolo Canevari's video Bouncing Skull

Iranian artist Shirin Neshat examines the role of women in Islamic culture through an arresting gelatin silver print photo, in which a large group of women is huddled en masse with hands held up, facing the viewer.

Untitled (Rapture Series) depicts the women veiled in chadors, with Arabic writing on their palms, as they sit herded in a desert sprawl. The boot prints of unseen adversaries surround them in the sand.

In another photo from the same series, a group of men, who might be praying, is shown at a seaside fortress, crouching in concentric circles as they face each other with their backs to the spectator. Behind them, an ancient cannon points to the ocean. These images are suffused with a sense of beauty and mystery that's difficult to describe.

Near the exit, Priscilla Monge's color photographs strangely evoke the 1968 Manson murders. The artist has scrawled six impeccably white doors with similar phrases in blood. One reads, "El arte es cosa de vida o muerte" ("Art is a matter of life and death"); another reads, "La guerra es cosa de vida o muerte" ("War is a matter of life and death").

It's impossible to argue with either sentiment, especially when confronted with a show that so potently mirrors these uneasy times.

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