Perhaps you've seen the signs. Tiny fliers posted downtown that read: "We all bleed red." "Her spies are everywhere." "No one fights alone."
It's propaganda, a call for citizens to unite behind one of two countries at war.
The 12-person Modbo Collective — artists devoted to narrative figurative painting, and to each other's development — put about two years' work into Rubrittica vs. Ceralusia. The exhibit spans both the Modbo and S.P.Q.R. galleries, and dates back to the turn of the 20th century, when tensions mounted until the death of a princess sparked a war.
At this point, the Collective wants to keep further details vague — not only to play with ideas of fiction and history, but also to explore how we view conflict if we know nothing about the parties involved.
"You can look at war itself, instead of specific issues we're so familiar with," says Erin Jones.
"That's been one of our goals," says fellow artist and gallery co-owner and curator Brett Andrus, "to try and present the honor of war, the tragedy of war, the glory, the interesting stories, the sad stories, the stories of people persevering."
That means galleries packed with portraits of kings and queens, landscapes of battles, Zeppelins swarming in the sky, and a series of paintings following the story of one fighter who, G.I. Joe-style, single-handedly defeats an enemy unit after losing his own and saving a dozen children. He's the everyman-hero, says Andrus.
Other archetypes include the soldier-artist, represented in a sketch diary created by Chris Alvarez. And that propaganda comes courtesy of Shannon Dunn and artist/graphic designer Troy DeRose.
Literature written by the group will accompany much of the work, casting light on the story and, on a deeper level, the way war has changed over time. Part of the show focuses on war's impact on civilian life, given that everyone became involved when fighting broke out.
"Back in that time period," says Trevor Thomas, "war was a much more personal thing for the country, for the family, for the individual."
"We are in today's world, detached from everything," adds Andrus. "You know, when you can make a video game into something, you've basically detached yourself from it."
Detaching from the artwork itself, what the Collective has done highlights the genre of war painting; the subdued role of the artist in the show (since it's more about documentation than personal pursuit); and a group exhibit functioning like an installation. As the show travels (its next stop is Rodney Wood's gallery in Trinidad), Andrus hopes other artists will contribute and grow the story.
So do your part and keep your eyes open.