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Surrealism and War, an Exhibition of Veterans’ Artwork that Explores the Relationship Between Surrealism and the Experience of War, Opens Memorial Day 2014


CHICAGO, IL – On Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, 2014, the National Veterans Art Museum (NVAM) will honor Memorial Day with the opening reception of Surrealism and War, an exhibition of veterans’ artwork that explores the relationship between surrealism and the experience of war.

Surrealism and War includes the seminal work “The Earth Lies Screaming” by Jim Leedy, a Korean War veteran who was one of only two Americans invited to participate in the largest Surrealist exhibition ever assembled at the Retretti Art Center, Finland, an exhibition that began with Miro, Dali, and DuChamp, and culminated with several works by Mr. Leedy.

Surrealism is an attempt to revolt against the inherent contradictions of a society ruled by rational thought while dominated by war and oppression. Surrealism seeks expression of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason and free of aesthetic and moral preoccupation. It is this same absence of control exercised by reason that many combat veterans seek to explore and express after their experiences in war. Surrealism and War features the artwork of nine veteran artists that intentionally and unintentionally use and explore Surrealist processes and concepts.

Of his piece, “The Meeting of Dark Scout and Winged Boy,” David Keefe an Iraq veteran notes, “For the past few years, I have been exploring how multiple histories collide in timeless fashions. This concept has become a catalyst for my painting compositions that explore and expose the boundaries between reality and memory, between chronologically lived experiences and simultaneity.”

Curator Aaron Hughes, an Iraq veteran, states, “This show is transformational for veterans who often feel isolated in their experiences. It is not only bringing an intergenerational group of veterans together but also showing the connection to one of the most powerful modern art movements: Surrealism. It is so important for veteran artist to see themselves and their work in relationship to the history of art and artist. My generation of veterans is not the first to come home from war and express the realities and traumas of war through art. This exhibition brings that history to light and demonstrates the connection between what Iraq veterans are doing with what Vietnam, Korean, and World War One veterans have done.”

NVAM Executive Director Levi Moore celebrated the show, noting, “With this exhibition, which marks our second Memorial Day at our home in the Six Corners neighborhood, we hope to welcome new and expanding audiences and to reconnect with past supporters.”

Ehren Toole, a Gulf War veteran whose “Cup Series” is featured in the show, states “After my experience in the Marine Corps, I am wary of the gap between the stated goal and the outcome. I am comfortable with the statement ‘I just make cups.’ I trust that my work will speak for itself, now and over the next five hundred thousand to one million years. When I returned from the 1991 Gulf War I was surprised to see a G.I. Joe version of myself, my gas mask and my war, in stores, ‘for ages 6 and up.’ I am compelled to make work that talks about the strange places where military and civilian cultures collude and collide.”

Featured artists include Korean War veteran Jim Leedy, Vietnam War veterans William Dugan, Stan Gillett, Michael Helbing, and Richard Yohnka, Gulf War veteran Ehren Tool, Kosovo veteran Giuseppe Pellicano, and Iraq War veterans David Keefe and Robynn Murray.

The NVAM is pleased to welcome veterans, military family members, artists, and the general public to join the artists for the Memorial Day Opening, Monday May 26, 2014.

Admission to the NVAM will be free from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. A Color Guard will take place at 11 a.m. and artist talks will commence at 2 p.m. Surrealism and War will be on display from May 26, 2014 to November 1, 2014.

About the Artists

  • William Dugan served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and currently lives and works in Missouri.
  • Stan Gillett served in the Army in Vietnam and currently lives and works in Georgia.
  • Michael Helbing served in the Army in Vietnam and currently lives and works in Illinois.
  • David Keefe served in the Marine Corps in Iraq and currently lives and works in New Jersey.
  • Jim Leedy served in Korean War and currently lives and works in Missouri
  • Robynn Murray served in the Army in Iraq and currently lives and works in New York.
  • Giuseppe Pellicano served in the Army in Kosovo and currently lives and works in Oregon.
  • Ehren Tool served in the Marine Corps in the Gulf War and currently lives and works in California.
  • Richard Yohnka served in the Army in Vietnam and is from Illinois. He passed away in 1997.

The exhibition will also feature work from the NVAM permanent collection and an Exquisite Corpse project with submissions by many veteran and non-veteran artists.

About the National Veterans Art Museum
The National Veterans Art Museum, located at 4041 N Milwaukee Avenue, inspires greater understanding of the real impact of war with a focus on Vietnam. The museum collects, preserves and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans. The National Veterans Art Museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and exhibition of art inspired by combat and created by veterans. It is home to more than 2,500 works of art by more than 270 artists. Personal narratives and artistic representations of war (including paintings, photographs, sculptures, poetry and music) provide transformative learning opportunities in art, history and civics.

The National Veterans Art Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is free. For group admission reservations, call the Museum at 312/326-0270 or visit www.nvam.org.

Patrons of the museum can access art from the permanent collection and biographical information on the artists through the NVAM Collection Online, a recently launched online and high-resolution archive of every piece of art in the museum’s permanent collection. The NVAM Collection Online can be found at www.nvam.org/collection-online.

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