A Different War

  • Keiko Bonk, Dad, 1986. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Keiko Bonk, Mom, 1986. Courtesy of the artist.

  • May Stevens, Big Daddy Paper Doll, 1968. Courtesy of the artist.

  • A Different War, Installation View, University of Colorado, Colorado, 1991.

  • John Knecht, Aspects of a Certain History ( Shooting Gallery) #1, 1983. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Cliff Joseph, My Country, Right or Wrong, 1968. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Wendy Watriss, Dan Jordan and his Son Chad, Austin, Texas, from the 'Agent Orange' series, 1981. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Rupert Garcia, Fenixes, 1984. Courtesy of the artist and the Ianetti-Lanzone Gallery, San Francisco.

  • A Different War, Installation View, University of Colorado, Colorado, 1991.

Curated by Lucy R. Lippard

In 1990, fifteen years after the Vietnam War, Lucy Lippard collaborated with the Whatcom Museum of History and Art and ICI to curate A Different War: Vietnam in Art, a show the Seattle Times called “the most powerful art exhibition in recent memory.” The exhibition was the first critical examination of the impact of the Vietnam War on American artists at the dawn of the protest era in the United States.

“The Vietnam War had a powerful impact on American culture, yet it’s influence on American art has to yet been fully explored. After a decade of avoidance, repression, and silence, Americans are finally coming to terms with a war that deeply divided our country. As scholars, veterans, peace activists and others have begun to assess the impact of the war on American history and culture, it is highly appropriate that an exhibition be organized that explores it’s impact on recent American art history. A Different War is the result of nearly four years of research and destined, we hope, to make a significant contribution to American art scholarship. As the first critical examination of the impact of the Vietnam War on American art in the past twenty-five years, the exhibition and accompanying publication will write an important chapter of recent American art history, a chapter that has been too painful, personal or political to properly assess in the past…

Little of the art in A Different War is pleasant to look at. Much of it conveys deep sadness, loss, unease- even madness. And yet, as Jock Reynolds, Executive Director of the Washington Project for the Arts in Washington D.C., has said:

“We can circumvent, avoid, and repress our history and encourage our culture to be more decorative, distracting, and vapid, or we can directly face this part of our national history if artists choose to participate in struggle for needed understanding as they see fit. As we yearn for peace and beauty, for masterpieces of harmony and resolution, difficult and disturbing subjects must not be avoided. Those willing to tackle them deserve support and encouragement, for there is beauty in such work too.”

-John Olbrantz
Excerpt from A Different War: Vietnam in Art,  1990

Accompanying this exhibition is the catalogue A Different War: Vietnam in Art, edited by Lucy R. Lippard and co-published by The Real Comet Press and Whatcom Museum of History and Art. Please visit our shop for more information.




Lucy R. Lippard

Lucy R. Lippard is a writer, feminist, and activist, author of 23 books on contemporary art and cultural criticism, including one novel. She has done performances, comics, street theatre, and has curated some 50 exhibitions in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. For thirty years she has worked with artists’ groups such as the Artworkers’ Coalition, Ad Hoc Women Artists, WEB (West East Bag), Artists Meeting for Cultural Change, The Alliance for Cultural Democracy, and WAC (Women’s Action Coalition). She was a co-founder of: Printed Matter, The Heresies Collective and journal, PADD (Political Art Documentation/Distribution) and its journal Upfront, and Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America. Lippard has been a visiting professor at the School of Visual Arts, NYC, Williams College, The University of Queensland, Australia, and University of Colorado, Boulder. She has served on the boards of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Printed Matter, Franklin Furnace, REPOhistory, Time and Space Limited, SoHo 20, Earth Works Institute, AXLE, the Center for American Places, and the Center for Art & Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, among others.

Her books include Changing: Essays in Art Criticism, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object…. From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women’s Art, Eva Hesse, I See/You Mean (novel), Cracking, Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory, Get the Message? A Decade of Art for Social Change, A Different War: Vietnam in Art, Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America, Partial Recall: Photographs of Native North Americans, The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art, and The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society, On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art and Place, Down Country: The Tano of the Galisteo Basin 1250-1782, and Undermining: A Wild Ride Through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West, among many others.

She writes prolifically for magazines and exhibition catalogues. She has written regular columns on art and politics for the Village Voice, In These Times, and Z Magazine, and is a contributing editor of Art in America.


touring schedule

Museum of Art, Washington State University
Pullman, Washington, United States
January 13, 1992 - February 23, 1992

Colorado University Art Galleries
Boulder, Colorado, United States
August 30, 1991 - October 5, 1991

Wright Art Gallery
Los Angeles, California, United States
March 24, 1991 - March 24, 1991

Madison Art Center
Madison, Wisconsin, United States
December 1, 1990 - January 27, 1991

Akron Art Museum
Akron, Ohio, United States
September 8, 1990 - November 4, 1990

Mary and Leigh Block Gallery
Evanston, Illinois, United States
May 9, 1990 - June 24, 1990

De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park
Lincoln, Massachusetts, United States
February 17, 1990 - April 15, 1990

Whatcom Museum of History and Art
Bellingham, Washington, United States
August 19, 1989 - November 12, 1989

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