“Sketching the Drawdown,” an exhibition at UNC Charlotte’s Center City Building, features freelance war artist Rob Bates’ drawings for American Public Media. In December 2012, Bates received invitational travel orders to embed with the United States Marines as a war artist. He spent 10 days in Afghanistan with a battalion of Marines from Camp LeJeune. “Sketching the Drawdown” presents some of the combat artwork Bates did during and after that journey.
As a former Marine with two tours in Afghanistan, Bates was not daunted by this invitation nor surprised by what he saw. In his previous tours, Bates had created strategic combat art, sketching terrain and entrance and exit routes as well as people, places and events. His combat art from 2009 was accessioned into the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and in April he won the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2013 Col. John W. Thomason Jr. Award for combat artwork.
Bates’ work in this exhibition focuses on the soldiers with portraits of the Marines in his battalion, but he also catches tanks and airplanes in action and the rugged landscapes. His work has an immediacy to it. Many of the drawings are sketchy and unfinished without extraneous detail, but instead of feeling fragmented or indefinite this serves to add to the of the moment impression and focus the viewer’s attention. “Sketching the Drawdown” will be on view until September 13.
UNC Charlotte Center City: 320 E. 9th St., Charlotte; centercity.uncc.edu. Open Mon.-Sun., 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.