Alan Magee: Grand Illusions • Dowling Walsh Gallery, July 2 - 31, 2021
The paintings in this exhibition were made in late 2020 and 2021, but my fascination with armor began long ago. As a child I made detailed drawings of suits of armor, and that early allure of the metal-clad human form has stayed with me. Echos of those childhood drawings reappear today in my doodles, in the articulated limbs of my sculpted figures, and in these new large-scale paintings of helmets.
I’ve been visiting armor collections for well over forty years. There is a vast repository of European battle armor, for example, in Graz, Austria, as well as in Dresden, in Nuremberg, and at the National Museum of Poland in Krakow, the Germanisches Historisches Museum in Berlin, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
As I worked on these paintings, I marveled at the seamless fusion of human artistry with the age-old instinct for organized violence. And that marriage of awe- inspiring craft and military power continues; these helmets are not far removed in their purpose from B-2 Stealth Bombers and Reaper Drones.
In an issue of Harpers many years ago, Lewis Lapham wrote that to understand the American reverence for our sophisticated war machines, we need to see them as our nation’s religious art. The helmets could be seen in the same way— not only as masterfully-made protections for the head, but as emblems of a system of beliefs.