Beautiful, Gruesome, and True: Artists at Work in the Face of War

Regular price $ 16.00

by Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Colombia Global Reports

9/6/2022, paperback

SKU: 9781735913728


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.


“Kaelen Wilson-Goldie writes with depth, nuance, and empathy about three artists who have dedicated their lives to grappling with violence, conflict, and war. She shows that it’s both possible and essential to produce politically engaged art that truly matters, without fear or compromise. This book is an important contribution to contemporary debates over journalism, misinformation, and the nature of truth.” —Mohamad Bazzi, director, Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University

“Without cynicism or naïveté, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie finds and engages deeply with artists who maintain unflinching contact with the violence of the present. No one can know whether real social change will ever arrive, but without doubt the art of Kanwar, Margolles, and Abounaddara, as beautifully unfolded in this book, will stand as a passionate, imaginative, and scrupulous history of those who refused to turn away.” —Katy Siegel, Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Endowed Chair in Modern American Art, Stony Brook University; and Senior Curator, Baltimore Museum of Art

About the Author:

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.