Friday, July 12, 2024

“Munition Makers” (1939) by David Smith at the Harvard Art Museums. (Photo: Caitlin Cunningham)

The permanent gift of 14 cast bronze pieces called “Medals for Dishonor” by sculptor David Smith – a 15th is on long-term loan – makes for a good reason to visit the Harvard Art Museums. (The museums are also free.) There are more than 110 armed conflicts taking place globally right now, according to the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, and while they may not all fit Smith’s categories of outrage from castings between 1938 and 1940, there is plenty to recognize in the two rows of plaques. Titles include “Diplomats: Fascist and Fascist Tending,” “War Exempt Sons of the Rich” and “Bombing Civilian Populations,” and works mix horror and humor, the sacred and the mundane – in “Cooperation of the Clergy,” an angel plays the tuba to bless the loading of long-range artillery – and hint at times at Hieronymus Bosch or echo Mexican Day of the Dead imagery. They’re all in the Social Realism gallery on Level 1.

Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy St., near Harvard Square, Cambridge 

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