When a dead soldier’s body returns home it’s draped in a flag, keeping death at a uniformed distance. In this series of thought-provoking screen prints at the Art on Armitage street gallery, conceptual artist Alan Lerner forces us to reexamine convention and form, and as a result, alters our ingrained servitude towards formality. Through marching bands and feathered caps, Lerner raises consciousness about the dark underside of pomp and circumstance. Civic responsibility, as it turns out, is indicative of society’s need to cloak violence from war in a mask of duty and honor. Two members of a marching band, painted in red, appear against a smoky gray landscape—their whistles and feathered hats just as ominous as their determined, military-style marching. A bright red trumpet juxtaposed against a mass of black and white skulls suggests the inevitability of death as a result of blind allegiance. In Lerner’s most stirring piece, a mysterious black book looms alongside men in conflict, depicting the perilous power of words. In just a few screen prints, Lerner poses a much-needed challenge: how to separate independent thought from societal exigency. By showing the interrelation between the imperative and violence, the artist conveys the need for morality above national obligation. (Marla Seidell)
Through May 31 at Art on Armitage, 4125 W. Armitage.