Art by Faculty and Alumni Featured in Gulf War Exhibit at MoMA

BY Audrey Deng, January 23, 2020

Jon Kessler (Faculty) at MoMA PS1


The MoMA PS1 show Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011 features works by artists who respond to the legacies of American military involvement in Iraq, beginning with the Gulf War in 1991. The pieces in this group exhibition examine how conflict with Iraq became a part of American identity. Included in this exhibit is work by Visual Arts Professor Jon Kessler and Film Professor and alumnus Ian Olds '06.


According to MoMA PS1’s website, this show includes 300 works by more than 80 artists based in Iraq and its diasporas, as well as those responding to the war from the West: “The wide range of perspectives included in this exhibition attests to the rich artistic traditions of contemporary Iraq, with artists working under conditions of war, embargo, and occupation placed in conversation with those responding to these wars from afar.”


Kessler, who was born in Yonkers, NY, works with sculptures and installations. He received a B.F.A. from SUNY at Purchase and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. He has exhibited his work widely in Europe, Japan, and the United States. He has sculptures in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. He has received several NEA grants, the St. Gaudens Memorial Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Foundation for the Performing Arts grant.


In a recent Cultured magazine “Inside my Studio” video, Kessler takes us through his Williamsburg studio. He says, “As the world is getting crazier and crazier, I’m finding that my studio has become more and more a place of solitude and of solace.”


Occupation: Dreamland, directed, edited and photographed by Olds, will screen at MoMA PS1 January 26 at 3:00 pm, as part of the exhibition.


Ian Olds was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work as a director of both documentary and narrative films. Directing credits include Burn Country (winner of the Best Actor Award at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and released theatrically by Samuel Goldwyn Films), the Iraq war doc Occupation: Dreamland (short-listed for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and winner of an Independent Spirit Award), and Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (winner of top jury prizes at Tribeca and Madrid, acquired by HBO Documentary Films and nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism). Olds’ work has been supported by a MacDowell Fellowship, the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, five separate grants from San Francisco Film Society, a Princess Grace Award, and a Media Arts Fellowship sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. He began teaching directing at Columbia in 2017.


Theater of Operations runs until March 1, 2020.