Exhibition Opening – Questioning the Bomb

The following blog post is written by Chloe Isaac, the University of Maryland Art Gallery’s new Coordinator of Social Media and Outreach. To learn more about professional development opportunities for UMD students at the Gallery, click here.

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Visitors take in a selection of posters in the front gallery, Questioning the Bomb: History and Non-Proliferation, September 2-October 23, 2015, University of Maryland Art Gallery

Earlier this month, The Art Gallery’s current exhibition Questioning the Bomb opened, and over 80 posters reflecting on the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bomb drop in Hiroshima were set for display.

As someone who wasn’t alive 70 years ago, and did not even learn much about Hiroshima in school, the nuclear bomb is kind of a foreign concept. I had seen the bomb drop in films and documentaries, but I had never understood its effect, or what it meant. Looking at the artwork in the exhibition changed my entire perspective.

The artwork in the exhibition consists of works of art not only specifically calling attention to the fateful day that in August of 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped, but also referencing the event and its effect on surrounding societies. Curated by James Thorpe, Associate Professor of the Graphic Design department, the works are posters made by designers from all over the world. These designers include Pentagram designer Harry Pearce, who used his own blood to create his poster.

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Harry Pearce, It’s All Our Blood, 2015, Digital Print, 24″ x 36″, University of Maryland Art Gallery

To know and understand the emotional connection the artists have to Hiroshima and its impact on their work is to understand the beauty of such an exhibition. Viewing the work as a group during the opening was an experience as well. People were drawn to different pieces according to their own preferences of color and line choice, but to see the somber, sedated looks on many of their faces when they step back and away from the pieces was enlightening.  It showed the effectiveness of the exhibit, and how 70 years is not long enough to ignore, especially when our Congress is negotiating the Iran Deal, which will have a huge impact on nuclear weapon production.

One of the most impactful parts of the opening was hearing both Taras W. Matla, our administrator, and Thorpe address the viewers. Matla stated that he should hope that if there is any takeaway from the exhibition, that it be we “…look at these posters as a call to arms, or, in the larger sense, a call to arts.” He wished that we would see the posters as an example of how impactful art can be, and how it can change the world. This was followed by Thorpe’s remarks, in which he mentioned his hope for an end to the creation of mass weaponry. And if his words were not enough, he informed us that the pillars within the exhibit space were made to be the size of average nuclear bombs. If those pillars were actually bombs, and were to go off, more than half of the United States’ population would be wiped out. In a room full of beautiful artwork, it is easy to forget the commotion around you. This exhibition is a combination of both worlds. It will be open through October 23, 2015.

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View of Back Gallery, Questioning the Bomb: History and Non-Proliferation, September 2-October 23, 2015, University of Maryland Art Gallery

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