“What interests me about mapping is that it is about power and control. Who makes the map? Who names the places? Every time a country is conquered, they rename the streets, they remap it, and that’s how control is exercised. The term ‘mapping’ has even more power today than when I first started exploring it 30 years ago.”
Joyce Kozloff charts physical and diplomatic terrain, creating places, real and imagined, to dramatize the intersections of culture and politics. DC Moore Gallery is pleased to present a timely new body of work, Joyce Kozloff: Uncivil Wars, on view from June 24 - August 13, 2021.
Uncivil Wars incorporates US Civil War battle maps - created by officers and soldiers from both the Confederate and Union armies - to depict a history that is currently still contested. Viruses erupt throughout the battle maps, reflecting the pandemic that locked down state, national, and international borders, symbolizing the viral racism and xenophobia that permeates our country. Barbara Pollack, in her conversation with the artist, notes that Kozloff has “a knack for picking maps that are historical but coincide with contemporary issues.” Pollack then points out that “about 620,000 soldiers died in the U.S. Civil war over 5 years, almost the same as U.S. deaths from Covid in the last year.”
Meticulously copying the information held in each map, Kozloff turns them into expressive works by building up painterly surfaces with rich, saturated colors, as in Uncivil Wars: Battle of Appomattox Court House (2021), where the armistice was signed. Pinks, oranges, and greens explode across the canvas, and while the viruses abound, Kozloff’s treatment evokes fireworks, suggesting both the horrors and sadness of war and the relief and jubilation of its ending. Uncivil Wars: Battle of Shiloh is a swirling mass of viral infection in gorgeous, iridescent putrescence, reflecting the bloodiness of that battle. And the viruses in Uncivil Wars: Battle of Fredericksburg, a classically gridded painting, look strangely like the mines and grenades employed during the war.
Also featured in the exhibition are works on paper from some of Kozloff’s earlier series. Boys’ Art (2001 - 2002) was her first confrontation with war among these pieces. She inserted cutouts from her son’s childhood drawings of the battles between his comic book superheroes into maps of the sites of military action throughout history, applying a feminist critique to male aggression. The nine intimately scaled works from American History (2004) tell a comic/serious history of the US through its wars, from the Age of Discovery to today’s global confrontations.
The four collages in Manifest Destiny (2008) are based on copies of World War I trench maps. As explained by Kozloff, they “have the same text over and over again,” which she saw on a wall at the Imperial War Museum in London. "In World War I, 9 out of 10 deaths were soldiers. In today’s wars, 1 out of 10 is a soldier." Overlaid with images of happy settlers and cowboys on bucking broncos, Kozloff’s presentation of 20th-century warfare simultaneously condemns the US’s 19th Century doctrine that justified the country’s expansion at the cost of native peoples.
Joyce Kozloff has been an artist and political activist since the 1970s. She was a pioneer of the Pattern and Decoration movement, which analyzed the gendered hierarchies in art history, criticism, and practice - and sought to break down the boundaries between fine and decorative art. She was also a founding member of the Heresies collective, which published a quarterly journal about feminism, art, and politics. She continues to work in feminist and anti-war groups today. Her studio practice encompasses painting, sculpture, installations, printmaking, and photography.