Mitchell Squire in “Heavy, Heavy Hangs Over Thy Head” | Des Moines Art Center |

10 June 201625 September 2016

John Brady Print Gallery

Scratched into the lithographic stone, the words of a children’s game—”HEAVY HEAVY HANGS OVER THY HEAD”—prophesies doom as a mouse gnaws a cord attached to a rifle suspended from a nail over a sleeping baby. Rockwell Kent created this print in 1946, but in our present age of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and heartbreakingly far too many other gun massacres to name, this shocking image speaks to us forcefully. Donated to the Art Center by Print Club in 2002, this extraordinary print gives its name to this exhibition.

It may be a truism that television, movies, videos, digital games, the Internet, and now, cell phones, inure viewers to gun violence. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, these modern media disseminate images of aggressive behavior. Whether inadvertently or intentionally, these media provide violent role models and offer perpetrators notoriety. But before the 20th century, prints were mass media. Long before the advent of television, film, and the Internet, artists depicted guns, shooting, and shooters in print.

This exhibition looks at ways that artists from the 16th century to our time have depicted fire arms, shooters, and the victims of gun violence. The 36 prints, photographs, drawings, and sculpture selected from the Art Center’s permanent collections are by Dmitri Baltermants, Jacques Callot, Joseph Cornell, Stefano della Bella, J. N. “Ding” Darling, Otto Dix, Max Ernst, Natalia Goncharova, Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Lindner, Kerry James Marshall, Irving Norman, José Clemente Orozco, Mitchell Squire (“Gladiators”), Antonio Tempesta, and others. Whether approaching this subject matter with high seriousness, objectivity, admiration, irony, or with anguish, these works show people using guns in military actions, inter-personal conflicts, murder, assassination, and the hunting of animals.

Amy N. Worthen, curator of prints and drawings, organized the exhibition. Support is provided by the Art Center Print Club.

Des Moines Art Center
4700 Grand Avenue
Des Moines IA 50312-2099

Pictured:  Mitchell Squire, Gladiators, 2013, lithograph, edition of 44, 44 x 30 inches (111.76 x 76.2 cm), published by World House Editions.