Kim MacConnel at Rosamund Felsen

Art in AmericaMay, 2006 by Joe Lewis 

Kim MacConnel’s new series of 28 small pseudo-origami and watercolor collages focus on a seemingly endless number of American foreign policy and military disasters in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe. He crumples, folds and twists U.S. dollars and foreign currencies collected on trips to make convincing armaments and ordnance–battleships, tanks, helicopters, rocket-propelled grenades and bombs. Augmented by loose but recognizable gesture drawings and graffitilike markings, these implements of war roam freely within watercolor depictions of desert scenes, jungles and, in a few instances, Washington, D.C.

Moreover, MacConnel deconstructs each currency’s design by cutting out or reorganizing elements of its motifs or iconography–portraits of leaders, historical moments, etc.–to enrich his narratives. Set in unevenly cut oval mats suggesting cartography, the territorial connections between each story further magnify a “New World Order,” but not the one you would think.

In Disasters of War: Iran 1979, MacConnel explores the government’s failed attempt to rescue Americans taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. A tangled helicopter lies in a desert wasteland. The chopper’s body is made from a $50 bill. The face of the great general Ulysses S. Grant is crushed almost beyond recognition. Floating above it all with a Mona Lisa-like smile, Ayatollah Khomeini (an omnipresent image in contemporary Iranian society) looks upon the crash site, contemplating the flawed mission while extolling the hostage-takers. Their jubilant images, which still appear on Iranian currency, rest comfortably in the foreground.

Ironically, the central figures in Shock n’ Awe, a chilling portrait of saturation bombing, are two of U.S. democracy’s founding fathers, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. We witness the final blow: a single U.S.-currency bunker-buster bomb is dropped from the $100-bill fighter plane onto an earth-toned oasis community. No bodies or blood, just a landscape littered with mushroom clouds made from folded images of Washington from the $1 bill.

Capitol Values is a rogues’ gallery of former allies and foes stapled together in an arc pattern similar to a spread deck of cards. Nine recognizable foreign leaders–the Shah of Iran, Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein, Che Guevara, etc.–teeter on the pinnacle of the U.S. Capitol building’s lantern, itself conveniently positioned on top of the world. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Joe Lewis “Kim MacConnel at Rosamund Felsen”. Art in America. FindArticles.com.