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Three to See: War and America

This week's cultural calendar, Three to See, takes us from the heyday of illusion in Chicago to a contemporary critique of a culture so focused on war.

The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are deeply engrained in the American conscience. How they've infiltrated our society is the question posed in a newly opened exhibition in Hyde Park. 

Consuming War
at the Hyde Park Art Center attempts to explore just how the Military Industrial Complex is a part of American culture. Fourteen artists explore the idea of war consumption. Edra Soto's work involves framed pictures of handsome Hollywood leading men portraying soldiers. One of those actors is Mel Gibson in the film We Were Soldiers.

The work is a glimpse of how war is portrayed in American cinema. Works by artist Michael Rakowitz are under glass. Three display cases hold replicas of lost or stolen artifacts from the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia.

There's also a video installation by Iraqi Wafaa Bilal. He edited together news clips of politicians and military leaders along with black and white footage of war torn countries. The work called Domestic Tension explores 60 years of U.S. foreign policy.

Two works by Mary Brogger dominate the space. One a delicate steel plate made to look like a Persian rug. That was completed after the first Gulf War. The other is more harsh and focuses on the Iraq War: a rusted car chassis atop oil barrels. Curator Barbara Koenen says the artists go beyond words to discuss conflict.

KOENEN: And they use your visual sense…and they use your physical sense…and they also use references to culture and things that you read and narratives, but put it together in a way that you really can't experience in any other kind of artform. Consuming War continues at the Hyde Park Art Center through January 20.

From a critique of War to an exhibition capturing the past 50 years of a vanishing American landscape, stop two of our Three To See is at the Catherine Edelman Gallery.
It's a retrospective of photographer David Plowden.
The cinematic black and white images look like film stills, capturing the last steam locomotive, or miners in West Virginia and steel workers from east Chicago.
Photographer David Plowden says these images have become even more powerful over time because of how life has changed over the past 5 decades.

PLOWDEN: These are places that have to be shown because they are so much apart of who we are. And, they are part of our past. And it's a part of America which doesn't exist for the most part today.

David Plowden: Vanishing Point opens tonight at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago's River North Neighborhood, and runs through the end of the year. And speaking of capturing our past through art, stop three of our Three To See takes us back to an even earlier time when magicians were performing parlor tricks to packed houses. 

Each Tuesday night, the historic Biograph Theater plays host to The Magic Cabaret. For the past few months, David Parr and P.T. Murphy have been reviving the art of illusion. In an age where we're overloaded with spectacle on demand, it's refreshing to be amazed by the simplest of tricks. Magician David Parr.

PARR: We need mystery in our lives. I think the need for experiences that evoke feelings of awe and wonder in us, is a basic human need. Magic provides that experience for us.

The Magic Cabaret is every Tuesday night at the Biograph Theater in Lincoln Park. From preserving history to creating change, art has a powerful role in society.

RELATED: David Plowden sits down with Cherie Caswell Dost on Hello Beautiful!

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