The Second Attack in Three Months at the Same Falafel Stand in Tel Aviv (2006) by Josh Weintraub

How does a single artist respond to a distant war unjustly perpetrated in his name? Or a series of disasters?

Richard Serra scratched out a hooded Abu Ghraib figure with the words "STOP BUSH." Manet obsessively painted and repainted the execution of an Austrian archduke who was installed as the emperor of Mexico by Napoleon III in a failed power grab. Gerhard Richter made a book pairing news articles from the first days of the Iraq War with photographic details of one of his abstract paintings. Teams of photographers flew south to document Katrina, including Seattle's Chris Jordan. Josh Azzarrella of Chicago (showing now at Lawrimore Project) remade video footage of September 11 painstakingly, frame by frame, so that the plane flies right by the tower and on into the sunny sky.

Josh Weintraub, a painter who grew up in Seattle and now lives in New York, made a series of abstracted paintings of newspaper photographs of disasters, now showing at William Traver Gallery. Their titles are the headlines that accompanied the stories.

Weintraub expected that painting these scenes would bring him closer to the events, but in fact he felt more dissociated than ever. He found himself documenting his isolation from them, leaving sections of the primed canvases empty. The areas he did paint are stylistically voracious, with marks ranging from drips and dots and impressionist hatchmarks to spray paint, and in bright, metallic colors with plenty of contrast.

As a result, the best of these paintings attract and repel, with an effect similar to Walid Raad's photographs of the siege of Beirut shown recently at the Henry, in that both artists aestheticize their surfaces while their imagery, and the possibility of "relating" to it, recedes almost completely.

Standing in front of his paintings at the gallery, Weintraub talks about their dilemma.

Listen in.

Car Bomb Kills 13 (2006) by Josh Weintraub

Israel Bombs Downtown Beirut (2006) by Josh Weintraub

Hurricane Katrina Victims Suffer Primitive Conditions in the New Orleans Superdome (2006) by Josh Weintraub