Ever it since its rise out of the chaos following the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq, ISIS has been busy making a reputation for itself as the world’s baddest super-villain organization with various beheadings and other heinous acts, as well as attacks and threats directed at everything from ancient monuments to New York City. Of course, ISIS has wrought its greatest destruction against Iraq and Syria and now, 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel in Chelsea is making some of that damage palpable in a show called “ISIS Bullet Hole Paintings” by artist Piers Secunda.
In 2015, Secunda travelled to several Iraqi villages recently re-taken from ISIS by units of the Kurdish militia known as the Peshmerga. He took casts of bullet holes left by ISIS in the walls and buildings within the liberated areas, incorporating them once he got home into molds made from sculpture reliefs dating back to antiquity. He then poured in thick floor paint, which hardened into the results seen here: A series of ghostly plaques resembling ancient architectural treasures from Egypt, Assyria and Greece shot to pieces. Some are arranged in before and after sequences, or in progressions of three that go from untouched to virtually obliterated.
The works aren’t political per se, or even necessarily about ISIS, though they do serve as concrete testaments to the group’s brutality. Mainly, Secunda’s seems interested in illustrating the slide from civilization to barbarism. ISIS only happens to be most contemporary example of a phenomenon that can happen at any time or place.