Three differing perspectives on the Sept. 11 attacks greet the viewers at the entrance of Warp: War Rugs of Afghanistan. In “World Trade Center Towers and U.S. Aircraft Carrier with Afghan and U.S. Flags Behind Dove of Peace,” a dove, whose wings echo the shape of the airplane behind it, carries an olive branch, a famous Christian symbol of peace. In “World Trade Center Towers with Map of Afghanistan and Representation of Tora Bora Mountain Range,” a clear message reads, “ROUT OF TERRORISM WITH HELP OF AMERICA AND BRITAIN.” In these rugs and in many others on display until Oct. 8 in the Gund Gallery, historical events and figures are “warped” to convey political messages.
Next to these works, the Gallery curators chose to include two definitions of the word “warp.” In weaving, a warp is the group of vertical threads that the horizontal ones pass through. But warp is also defined on the wall as “the twist or distortion of the shape or form of something.”
Although the first three works on display are about terrorism, the exhibition includes rug designs dealing with conflicts as far back as the Soviet Invasion of 1979 and as recent as U.S. military drone use. Many artists show depictions of weapons and violence and often juxtapose these militaristic symbols with images of Afghanistan’s peaceful landscape.
In recent years, exhibitions in the Gund Gallery have become increasingly political. Natalie Marsh, the Gallery’s director, believes this is the Gallery’s responsibility to the Kenyon community.
“This certainly challenges the status quo that forces us to think seriously about our own role and democratic society,” she said. “But [the other side of this issue is], as an academic institution, we really feel at the Gund Gallery … it’s our obligation to share the kind of high quality work that’s being produced by contemporary artists around the country and the world.”