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The Multiplication of Bread: A Miracle of Loaves and Fishiness

The Multiplication of Bread

A tract of Afghani countryside is spread across the floor: sand and rocks, and scattered dwellings made from the same materials. Here and there, the sand is brushed away, and one can make out the elegant patterns of a large Afghani carpet. This rectangular entity has the visual impact of a palimpsest, a manuscript from which the original writing has been erased to fit another text: softly, the rug still asks to be read.

As war again looms over our heads, it's hard to imagine how Mexican sculptor, Marcos Ramírez, has made such harmony from the recent bombing of Afghanistan. His minimalist installation, The Multiplication of Bread/ La Multiplicación de los Panes, exhibited through January 11, 2003, at Intersection for the Arts, provides not only a thoughtful and surprisingly original meditation on today's geopolitical mood, but penetrates beneath our times, to the soul of human aggression.

With the evocative power of a religious icon, his piece is designed to elevate the viewer's mind from the everyday babble of television news coverage, to the grander implications of history, hypocrisy and human suffering. Beneath the media depiction of a monotonous wasteland, Ramírez, with unobtrustive poetry, reminds us of Afghanistan's unbroken millenia of culture, but also shows how the desert itself covers the past, except for patches of color and, on the peripheries, the tassels of human labor.

Meanwhile, mirroring the carpet, Ramírez has fashioned a dense sky full of bread: Roughly eighty loaves, neatly packed, each with dorsel fins also made of bread, suspended from transparent fishing line. The loaves, transformed into bombs, are poised to feed the hungry countryside. This has its timely reference to the unusual cargo dropped during the bombing of Afghanistan: yellow packages, branded with stars and stripes, bearing the words in Arabic script, "This is a food gift from the people of the United States of America."

With stinging irony, Ramírez gives this piece a timeless significance through its title. Here he draws on allusions to the Biblical story in which Jesus feeds a multitude with a single loaf of bread. From his work, one has a sense that, beyond any crass political agenda, America also feels a great spiritual need to sustain the illusion that its wars are waged in the spirit of nurturing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of those whom we bomb.

On either side of the carpet gazing towards each other from across the loaves, are photographs of two young faces, each suspended above an optometrist's eye chart. Below a pair of greenish-blue eyes, a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King appears in ever-diminishing letters, "Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation-the foundation of such a method is love. Across the way, below two dark eyes, a similar eye chart with a passage from the Koran, proclaims the kinship of all humanity. With understated poignancy, Ramírez has constructed the piece so that the two young faces are physically unable to ever make eye contact through the loaves.

The Multiplication of Bread (La Multiplicación de los Panes) runs through January 11, with a closing talk by artist at 2 p.m. on that day. Admission is free. Intersection for the Arts is located in the Mission, at 446 Valencia Street, between 15th and 16th Streets. Gallery Hours are: Tuesday by appointment; Wednesday-Saturday, 12-5 PM. (Closed through January 6.) For more information, call 415-626-1353 or visit the website at