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The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art Presents An-My Le: Small Wars
Small Wars: Explosion, 1999-2002, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy of Murray Guy Gallery, New York.


ITHACA, NY.- The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University presents An-My L: Small Wars, on view from September 6 to October 26, 2008.

This exhibition is comprised of two photographic series by the American photographer, born in Vietnam in 1960, in which she explores the conflicts that bracket the last half-century of American history: the war in Vietnam and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of addressing the topic by creating images of actual shocking events, she photographs places where war is psychologically anticipated, processed, and relived. Her series Small Wars (1999–2002) depicts men who reenact battles from the war in Vietnam in the forests of Virginia on weekends. Her current and ongoing series, 29 Palms (2003–present), documents the military base of the same name in the California desert where soldiers train before being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. These dramatizations of war—one a reenactment, one a rehearsal—allow L to create a unique kind of war imagery—one that is unexpected, removed, and revelatory.

L’s pictures have the hallmarks of a documentary project—they are presented in a series, depend on a narrative, and require the immersion of the photographer—but they do not show us what war does. Instead, they contribute to our understanding of war in a new and interesting way, bringing a new resonance to the phrase “the theater of war.” L’s pictures ask us to reconsider the fictions that cloud the ways in which war is remembered, reported upon, and experienced.

This exhibition has been organized by the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. Funding for this exhibition has been provided by the Lannan Foundation.

The Johnson Museum has a permanent collection of over 30,000 works of art from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. The museum building was designed by I. M. Pei. Funds for the building were donated by Cornell alumnus Herbert F. Johnson, late president and chairman of S C Johnson. The building opened in 1973.






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