Take, for instance, Mario Moore's painting Detroit Crisis. A fight between two African American teenagers has been broken up by friends--and behind this fraught encounter Moore has painted a public school building with a "For Lease" sign in front of it. Nearby is Leon Golub's 1985--S. Africa, a searing comment on the unequal power relations that reigned during the Apartheid era.
Other works are far more open-ended. Diane Thodos' Fear Smear resembles chunky woodblock prints and features a Jabba-the-Hutt-sized man in a suit, seeming to devour the heads of a group of onlookers. I was reminded of the anti-capitalist political posters that appeared during the 1920s in Germany or the 1930s here in the US. Fear Smear vividly demonstrates how social anxieties can be politicized and distorted, a theme that runs through a number of works here.
The most sobering piece by far is Osman Kahn's installation in the gallery's basement. Entitled Noor and based on a computer system devised by the artist, it consists of an empty room whose lights go dark at intervals calculated to reflect each loss of life in the ongoing crisis in Iraq. Standing in this room the viewer is caught between two conflicting desires: to experience the darkness versus hoping the lights will shine on.