December 10, 2010 through January 29, 2011
Opening reception Friday December 10 5-8PM

Thomas Robertello Gallery is pleased to present three prints by artist Barbara Koenen, in the gallery’s project space, December 10, 2010 through January 29, 2011.

In 2001, when the US invaded Afghanistan, Barbara Koenen began recreating Afghani war rugs in public performances. Afghani war rugs were first created in the late 1970s, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. That occupation was chronicled by tribal carpet weavers, primarily women, who began to incorporate images of weapons into traditional floral, animal, and geometric patterns. Subtle at first, the military iconography eventually dominated these unusual textiles, erasing all but the most incidental remnants of centuries of previous motifs.

Koenen was moved by the tragic nature of this cultural and aesthetic phenomenon, and wanted to feel what it was like to create something so brutal. Adopting the practice of the Tibeten Buddhist monks who make elaborate sand mandalas that they later destroy, she constructed war rugs much like mandalas made from loose spices and seeds. Taking up to 6 days to complete, the colorful and fragrant installations exist only temporarily. Once complete, they are left on display, vulnerable to accidental or deliberate intervention by passers-by. Some installations have actually been actually been walked on, and footsteps reveal the impermanence of the seemingly realistic carpet.

The three prints in the exhibition are monoprints made by fixing the remaining spices from one installation to cloth with clear medium. The prints retain much of the color and aroma of the rugs, as well as the pattern of footprints and other incidents that the installation endured. The first print is a rather true depiction of the rug, while the second and third pressings produce significantly faded, and increasingly abstract imagery.

Barbara Koenen lives and works in Chicago, IL. Her extensive list of solo and group exhibitions include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Hyde Park Art Center, Art Chicago, and the Chicago Cultural Center.


Chicago Tribune by Lori Waxman

Barbara Koenen

December 10, 2010 - January 29, 2011
Opens December 10, 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM


Silk Road War Rug 1 of 3

Barbara Koenen, Silk Road War Rug 1 of 3, 2006

Silk Road War Rug 2 of 3

Barbara Koenen, Silk Road War Rug 2 of 3, 2006

Silk Road War Rug 3 of 3

Barbara Koenen, Silk Road War Rug 3 of 3, 2006

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