Renée Stout  Arsenal for the Fire Next Time , 1997

Renée Stout
Arsenal for the Fire Next Time, 1997

American narrative: trigger zone

August 2, 2019 - January 4, 2020

at Belger Arts Center
2100 Walnut Street, Kansas City, MO 64108

“American Narrative: Trigger Zone” is the second of three exhibitions highlighting the major thematic elements that form the Belger Collection.  It focuses on the issues, questions and ideas that were elements of controversy and major shifts in society in the 1960’s and 1970’s and which continue in one form or another today.

The title for this exhibition comes from a quote by Dick Belger when asked about the reason he chose some of the artists and artwork in his collection.  He said, “I am interested in living, American, narrative artists who create work that has meaning to me, that reflects issues of my time.” He later explained his interest in watching artists’ visual exploration of ideas and conflicts, and how at each point preceding a fundamental change in their lives, they “come back to touch the familiar” in their artwork.

Several years ago, the controversy began on college campuses regarding the emotional responses generated by divergent ideas and the effect on students. The term “trigger warning” emerged to warn of potentially uncomfortable ideas in programming or even study materials.  

As part of the title for this exhibition, the term “Trigger Zone” is used with a degree of cynicism, but also as a deliberate caution that there are controversial subjects represented in the work.  The subjects are difficult ones and most have no easy answers. 

Guns, war, border issues, hate groups, freedom of speech, the environment and other controversies represented in these galleries are not unique to the time period in which they were created.  They are in the headlines today. This exhibition looks head-on at tough global subjects that make us uncomfortable. Dick Belger has also said, “Art can be a weapon” referring to the use of artwork as propaganda. Unlike propaganda, the intent of the objects and artwork assembled here is to begin a visual dialogue.  

We ask that you look, listen, feel and think. 

– Evelyn Craft Belger