Houston art exhibit showcases Gandhi and history of nonviolence

Thu Oct 2, 2014 3:57pm EDT
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By Walker Simon

HOUSTON Reuters) - A hollowed-out handgun becomes a first-aid kit for gunshot victims. Fragments from the feet of Buddha statues stand near a painting of ghostly dancers entitled "Hiroshima." Photographs of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi hang by images of Nobel Peace Prize winners he inspired.

The Menil Collection, an art museum in Houston, has put together a thought-provoking exhibit inspired by Gandhi and the history of nonviolence. It pits peaceful images against works of art depicting violence.

"Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence," which opened on Thursday, consists of 130 photographs, art works, artifacts and documents spanning more than 1,600 years.

"In our world violence is powerfully present in popular culture, just look at what children see in video games," said Josef Helfenstein, museum director and the exhibit's curator.

"I want to show there is another tradition in art showing tolerance, compassion and dialogue," he added. The exhibit runs until Feb. 1 and reopens in April at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva.

Helfenstein selected the items to resonate with Gandhi’s satyagraha, or "truth force" principle of forging strength and courage to battle aggression via civil disobedience, nonviolent resistance and peaceful protest.

In one gallery, French artist Yves Klein's "Hiroshima" painting of ghostly dancers faces a sculpture by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei of 10 sets of feet taken from fragments of Buddha statues sculpted at least as early as the 6th Century.

Fastened to wooden plinths, the detached feet lie near the well-known Tiananmen Square photograph of a lone man who stops a column of tanks.   Continued...

A 2014 handout picture shows the painting "Hiroshima" by Yves Klein, which is on display in the show "Experiments in Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence," which runs until February 1, 2015, at The Menil Collection museum in Houston. REUTERS/The Menil Collection/Rick Gardner/