"War, what is it good for?" asked Edwin Starr in a song from long ago. "Absolutely nothing," said Linda Allen, continuing the quotation of the song. Allen is one of the artists with anti-war artwork at the 4731 Gallery. "War is not something I seek out as a subject," explained Allen, who was invited by Jack O. Summers to include artwork in the exhibit titled Stretch the Stranglehold. "I then thought about the '70s, and the Vietnam War," Allen recalled.
Most of the art in the show references a specific war, like the Vietnam War, but is relevant to all wars. "My paintings are about World War I," explained David Mikesell, "they are protesting war through the medium of World War I." Many of the artists are military veterans: Mikesell, for example, was an Army officer at about the time the Vietnam War started, while Joe Lovett was an Army reservist in the late 1980s. Lovett's oil painting with the same title as the show alludes to Picasso's Guernica.
War in Syria had not yet become a hot-button issue when Summers and Lovett asked 4731 Gallery curator Bryant Tillman for the space and the date, but it was very much on the minds of the artists at the opening reception last night, September 21, 2013. "Hands off" Syria, said Tillman. The artists considered a hypothetical scenario in which Syria attacks Israel. "I don't think the U. S. should do a darn thing, Israel can take care of itself," said Linda Mendelson, whose husband Don has two paintings of soldiers in the show. The response to a hypothetical scenario in which Syria attacks the United States was markedly different: "We should cream them," Tillman said.
Jeanne Bieri used World War II-era Army blankets for two of her pieces. "I like to think that by mending [the blankets], I help them mend themselves" from the damages of war, Bieri said. Her grandfather was an Army medic during World War I who became a Presbyterian minister soon after, and her father was a World War II pilot.
The piece that most impressed patrons last night was Victor Pytko's three-dimensional Mad Men, which places several toy soldiers on top of a replica of a bomb casing. Deborah Kashdan was impressed because "it's massive and really because it's a bomb." After seeing the whole show, Kashdan said "they all send a message. … People have to see how artists respond to war."
The show was originally slated to end on September 28, but a decision was recently made to extend it to October 5, through Detroit Gallery Week, according to the 4731 Gallery's Facebook page.