Wafaa Bilal: Lovely Pink
February 26 – May 2, 2015
Project Space
press release

DRISCOLL BABCOCK GALLERIES presents Wafaa Bilal: Lovely Pink, an installation of 12 unique sculptures which, in the wake of ISIS’s destruction of Iraqi cultural heritage, resonates with the destabilization of iconic structures.  In Lovely Pink, Bilal has manipulated miniature reproductions of twelve of the most recognizable sculptures in Western history—including Michelangelo’s David, The Venus de Milo and The Winged Victory of Samothrace. The mass produced tourist objects, made of cold cast resin and bonded marble, are covered with heavy black enamel and heated industrial shrink wrap, creating a veil that obscures faces, appendages and bodies in whole.  Shining with the slickness of the petroleum-based enamel paint, the figures drip with black – like so many causalities of an offshore oil spill. While creating these new works of art, Bilal must in essence destroy the original cultural artifacts. This act of destruction carries with it the weight of mirroring the actual and horrific destruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage sites (including the Shia Saad bin Aqeel Husseiniya shrine in Tal Afar and Mosul’s al-Qubba Husseiniya mosque) by the militant group ISIS.

In Ares, God of War, Ares’s spear and shield are covered under a layer of “Lovely Pink” glitter nail polish that contrasts sharply with the sculpture’s representation of classical, idealized hyper-masculinity. At this miniature scale, Ares’s weapons are rendered comical and impotent, evoking children’s toys. In contrast, Perseus Beheading Medusa is dipped entirely in funerary black as Perseus stands victorious, rising above a beheaded female form and holding high a blurred and featureless head distorted by Bilal’s shrink wrap shell. Here, weapons are lethal, their victim obliterated both in body and in name, standing in for the innumerable nameless fallen.

In Winged Victory of Samothrace, the goddess Nike is similarly drenched in the glossy black enamel. The canon of art history has immortalized the Greek sculpture as a masterpiece of the ancient Western world and Nike as a messenger of victory. Yet Bilal engages her here as a recipient of violence, her wings bound and draped in a heavy oiled coat. Calling new attention to her decapitated, dismembered body—to her physical inability to sound the call of victory—dispels the possibility of triumph through warfare.