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Art Review: George Gittoes at the Station Museum

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Australian artist George Gittoes isn't afraid to put himself at the epicenters of some of the worst acts of human brutality on the planet in order to make his art. His travels have taken him to Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other war-torn countries. This exhibit at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art is the first major presentation of his artwork in the United States. It's chilling, disgusting, journalistic and entertaining all at once.

As a visual diary of Gittoes's experiences, the show is a massive dose of illustrated storytelling told through installation, video, drawing, painting, collage and the handwritten word. It takes several hours to experience it all, and we didn't try to soak it all up, because even an hour's worth is excruciatingly depressing. But we agree with Gittoes that it's absolutely necessary for us to look. The artist is holding a mirror up to the evil and ugliness of the world, hoping that will, in effect, destroy evil--like Perseus using a reflection to kill Medusa.

A grotesque mythology is employed in Gittoes' work, too. Out of very real evil he constructs graphic-novel-esque narratives about supernatural soldiers and mutant wars rooted in the emotional reality of genocide. In "Assumption," a cloud of bloodied, mutilated bodies ascends toward ... Heaven, maybe?

Another painting takes inspiration from a photograph of a severely beaten Rwandan boy (or maybe a girl?) and transforms it into a hellish image of violence in action. On the entertaining side, don't miss the impressively realized installation of a video store in the Taliban-controlled city of Peshawar. The Taliban are known for bombing such businesses, and Gittoes presents one in incredible detail, with video monitors and walls covered in hilarious DVD covers created by Gittoes himself. It slyly comments on the absurdity of an anti-technology culture using technology to destroy technology (and culture).

Through July 17. 1502 Alabama, 713-529-6900.

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