Upon first glance, Nancy Jurs’s installation World Peace at the Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College is a life-size game of chess. But is it really? There are the familiar components: the checkered board, the 32 game pieces. Beyond that, World Peace—in which the artist re-contextualizes ceramic works from earlier in her career—suggests new rules of engagement that break down the paradigm of strategic conflict and metaphorical war of chess.
The traditional square chess board has been modified into a circle, emblematic of the globe. Pawns, bishops, knights, rooks, queens, and kings are all noticeably absent—in their place are figures with names such as Endeavor, Virtue, Take a Seat, and Valentine. As the black and white pieces “move” toward the center of the board, they become gray. As the artist phrased it in a July 2011 video interview, “any aggressive action kind of neutralizes you.” Within this new paradigm, interaction is unavoidable, but because these new pieces are not defined by how they can defeat one another, the art of attack has been eliminated. Isolation and conquest has been replaced by communication and more hopeful, albeit unspecified outcomes.
Nancy Jurs’s World Peace is on view through June 17. For more information, visit the Burchfield Penney Art Center web site.