Alison Ruttan: if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

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Line in the Sand (2015), Alison Ruttan

The exhibit “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” is currently on display at the Chicago Cultural Center through May 10, 2015. The installation consists of four works; two sculptural, one photographic and one video by Alison Ruttan, an Illinois-based artist whose research-based approach has led her to depict the destructive, violent and savage aspects of a humanity operating within a war-torn world. In A Bad Idea Is Good Again (2010 -ongoing)Ruttan has constructed nearly twenty high-rise buildings, miniature in scale and size, in various states of ruin to demonstrate the process of decay that ensues when a city is caught in the crossfire of war. The collection of buildings sits like a ghost town, effectively producing feelings of uncanny to the onlooker aware of the fate of its missing inhabitants. Similarly, Ruttan’s Line in the Sand (2015) displays nearly five hundred abandoned and destroyed miniature cars in a procession line, the scene recalling the 1991 event in which the Iraqi military attempting to retreat from Kuwait were attacked by American and Canadian forces. Even in times of surrender, wartime strategies prove to be unrelenting in their sacrifice of human life. In The Four Year War at Gombe (2009-2011), human actors, wrought with blood and bruises, stage several murderous acts within the photos, further illustrating the capacity humans possess for inflicting violence during times of war. Ruttan presents a cohesive body of work, infusing fresh perspective onto a rather exhausted theme. Viewers are prompted to consider the damaging aftermath of war by considering the physical structures that remain wasting in its path.

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