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Nuclear Testing Inspires Beauty

BU Art Gallery exhibition reexamines Cold War aesthetics


The Boston University Art Gallery opened the fall semester with a look at the aesthetic value of the Cold War. Atomic Afterimage: Cold War Imagery in Contemporary Art showcases artistic reinterpretations of pictures from Cold War–era aboveground nuclear testing.

“The works point to ideological connections between the nuclear age and the present, but they do so in very subtle ways,” says exhibition curator Keely Orgeman (GRS’11), the Jan and Warren Adelson Curatorial Fellow in American Art in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “Rather than creating works that are clearly about the spectacle of nuclear testing, artists exaggerate the drama of the scenes through scale and medium.”

Atomic Afterimage features the work of 10 artists; the pieces range from declassified photographs of nuclear explosions to images that emphasize the lack of plant and animal life at former testing sites.

“The art delivers strong political messages without being heavy-handed,” says Orgeman. “I think the display is both aesthetically pleasing and psychologically unsettling because of the incredibly dark, but beautiful, subject matter.”

Atomic Afterimage runs through November 2 in the Boston University Art Gallery, located at the Stone Gallery in the College of Fine Arts, 855 Commonwealth Ave. For more information, visit the Boston University Art Gallery Web site.

Brendan Gauthier can be reached at btgauth@bu.edu.

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