Beautiful, Gruesome, and True

Beautiful, Gruesome, and True

Artists at Work in the Face of War

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie


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Why have some of the most interesting artists of our time committed themselves to some of the most devastating conflicts on Earth?

Why are some of the most interesting artists of our time committed to engaging with conflict and exploitation around the world? Beautiful, Gruesome, and True tells the stories of three of them: Amar Kanwar makes riveting films about the destruction of rural India in the drive to extract natural resources. Teresa Margolles creates haunting installations from the traces of crime scenes and drug-related violence in Mexico. The anonymous collective Abounaddara has produced more than four hundred short films chronicling the uprising and civil war in Syria. Drawing on years of research and extensive reporting, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie vividly recounts how a group of “political” artists found ways to produce remarkable works of art that demand deliberate and methodical ways of thinking—works that are contemplative, thoughtful, even redemptive.

“A gifted critic and a compelling journalist, Wilson-Goldie offers many important insights into the challenges these artists face in their confrontation with authority, repressive regimes, death, and violence. The story she tells could not be more timely.”
—Glenn D. Lowry, David Rockefeller Director, Museum of Modern Art


Kaelen Wilson-Goldie:
Kaelen Wilson-Goldie is a writer and critic who contributes regularly to Artforum, Aperture, and Afterall, among other publications. She is the author of Etel Adnan, a monographic study on the paintings of the Lebanese-American poet Etel Adnan, and a contributor to numerous books on modern and contemporary art, including Art Cities of the Future: 21st-Century Avant-Gardes and Huguette Caland: Everything Takes the Shape of a Person. She lives in New York City and Beirut.