Photo Diary: Fernando Bryce at Alexander and Bonin in Chelsea.

A detail of a New York Times cover reproduced by Fernando Bryce, in his staggeringly detailed World War II-themed show at Alexander and Bonin. (All photos by C-M.)

This is one of those exhibits that made me exclaim “holy shit” the minute I walked in: for his piece El Mundo en Llamas (The World in Flames), Fernando Bryce has lined the walls of Alexander and Bonin’s ample space in Chelsea with faithful ink recreations of World War II-era newspaper front pages from England, France, the U.S., Germany and Peru. (All are depicted above the fold.) Screaming headlines related to war cover the walls, from floor to ceiling — a stirring chronicle of long-ago news reports on battle advances, defeats, carnage and victory. In between, Bryce has incorporated his renderings of era film posters that he culled from the pages of El Comercio, Peru’s leading daily. (Bryce was born in Peru; he produced El Mundo en Llamas in 2010-11.)

The result is a chronicle of the war that is intensely personal, providing the rare opportunity to view this much-studied global conflagration through a uniquely Latin American lens. Not only are there some interesting historical finds, such as an ad for a 1940s Disney film geared at and incorporating South Americans (see below), the film posters featured — for flicks such as La Sombra del Terror (The Shadow of Terror) and Los Crimenes del Doctor Satán (The Crimes of Doctor Satan) — seem to echo, in exaggerated, graphic form, everything happening in the news. In addition, Bryce’s illustrations are exquisite, turning scenes of war into works of ethereal beauty (such as the image of the Australian soldier, above, from the New York Times). Taken together, the exhibit provides a riveting take on the nature of war, news, propaganda and graphic art. Consider it a must-see.

The show is up through Saturday, at Alexander and Bonin.

Fact and fiction: Bryce’s ink rendering of a New York Times page sits amid movie posters that evoke a 1940s zeitgeist.

Things I want to see really badly: Disney’s Saludos, a Technicolor film with characters and motifs from Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. (As an aside: here’s a good bit, with video, on Disney’s World War II propaganda.)

Details are faithfully rendered — such as this tiny piece from the Humphrey Bogart film poster, Across the Pacific.

This ad for the Lima and Callao lottery used war imagery to sell tickets. Check out the exploding coins at right. Officially, Peru was neutral during the first years of the war (during which time the country was preoccupied by a border squabble with Ecuador). However, by the time 1942 rolled around and the U.S. joined the war, the country changed its position in support of the Allies.

The French sure have a way with words: “The Nazi beast dies.”

The Crimes of Doctor Satan amid headlines about invasions, sieges and concentration camps.

From the New York Times: Bryce paints an American soldier guarding a group of Germans after their capture.

The artist’s rendering of a front page image of a death camp from a French paper.

A drawing inspired by an atomic bomb test as depicted in El Comercio. By turning these scenes into hand-painted images, Bryce is finding ways to tweak reality. The effect is engrossing.

In the rear room was a separate piece, Das Reich/Aufbau, also from 2010-11. It juxtaposed Bryce’s ink drawings of the Nazi newspaper of record with a German paper produced by refugees in New York.

The installation view.



  1. josephina

    Another Peruvuan kiss up. we get it. Short brown people unite! Enough of the Peru stuff, please, its getting annoying.

  2. cjceglio

    This is fascinating. I’ve been researching some of the ways in which the Office of Inter-American Affairs, under Nelson Rockefeller,utilized culture both in the USA and in Latin America in its efforts to promote hemispheric unity both before and after the US entered WWII. There was great concern about Nazi influence and even neutrality so the OIAA deployed music, art exhibits, movies, a LIFE magazine-style publication called EnGuardia, sports, dance and more to extend American influence. Of course, much went on in the business arena, too, as the US sought to secure access to the raw materials it would need to fuel its war machine. Pundits even described Rockefeller‘s agency as a hybrid entity unlike anything else in the Capitol. “It‘s not really a government office,” one observed, “but a combination international bank, trade bureau, art gallery and propaganda office.” So, thanks for cluing me in to Fernando Bryce’s work. He not only calls attention to this often forgotten aspect of WWII but also invites us to ponder the roles that art, artifice, and culture play in war.

    Thanks again for bringing interesting work to light for this reader.

  3. c-monster

    @cjceglio thanks so much for all the info… all of it fascinating… if you ever publish a book/paper/whatever on this, i’d be interested in reading it!

  4. cjceglio

    Then you might be interested in the following, both of which touch on some aspect of the OIAA’s cultural projects:

    Holly Barnet-Sanchez, “The necessity of Pre-Columbian Art in the United States: Appropriation and Transformations of Heritage, 1933 -1945,” in Collecting the Pre-Columbian Past: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 6th and 7th October 1990, edited by Elizabeth Hill Boone, (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1993)

    Michele Greet, Beyond National Identity: Pictorial Indigenism as a Modernist Strategy in Andean Art, 1920-1960 (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009)

    As for me, there’ll be a chapter on US museum involvement with the OIAA in my dissertation-and hopefully a paper one day, too! Meanwhile, this report, though dry, might suggest other sources you could consult: