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The Show

Leica Gallery, Los Angeles

Leica store Los Angeles external detail view from Beverly Blvd

Leica store Los Angeles in West Hollywood external view from Beverly Blvd

Leica Flagship Store Showroom / Entrance

Leica Gallery Los Angeles 2nd Floor Entrance

Leica Gallery Los Angeles, main installation view

Leica Gallery Los Angeles, tittle wall

Leica Gallery Los Angeles

Leica Gallery Los Angeles, artist statement and TPILB piece

TPILB detail view

view of the smaller pieces

Times Square Pop-up Exhibition

Times Square, New York City

The Pieces

The series consist of over 200 works, below is a selection. Please email to view the entire series

01 / 12

About The Work

For two decades my art has examined themes related to military power, almost always working in conventional photographic techniques. While doing research for a series of traditional photos of nuclear weapons, I reviewed thousands of pages of formerly classified documents. Buried among them I would occasionally encounter stories so strange or alarming that I might not believe them had they come from any other source. Stories like:

  • A van-sized hydrogen bomb lost off the coast of Savannah in 1958 has never been found.
  • The physicists working on the first atomic bomb debated if it might set off a chain reaction, ignite earth’s atmosphere, and kill every living thing.
  • Stanislav Petrov and Vasili Arkhipov, on separate occasions, disobeyed orders and single-handedly prevented a nuclear war.
  • The top scientists who worked on the early atomic bombs all opposed the development of the thermonuclear weapons which are in use today.
  • During the cold war there were underwater collisions between US and Russian submarines every year for 20 consecutive years.

These incidents appear in interdepartmental memos, instruction manuals, meeting notes, and incident reports. Viewed together they paint a picture of a world far more dangerous and fragile than the one I thought I inhabited — a world that during my lifetime alone had been within an hour of ending on at least five different occasions. Even though these profoundly consequential histories are no longer secret, few people are aware of them. 

As fascinating as the content of these documents were, I was also seduced by their appearance: how an image or text changed by being reproduced repeatedly. Each version imperceptibly mutated from the one before until the contents were barely legible. Fittingly, they decayed in much the same way that radioactive elements decay and transform into new ones, or in the way radioactive particles mutate DNA. 

As I spent more time in the documents, they became increasingly abstract. What were once photographs, text, stamps, redactions, or artifacts from a photocopier became my medium. I created new compositions with the elements I found in these documents, framing them in the same way I had previously arranged aircraft or landscapes in my photos. At times they felt like abstract paintings, with nods to the work of painters as different as Franz Klein, Mark Rothko, and Piet Mondrian. Other pieces had the bold textual and graphic play of graffiti and stencil artists. This exhibit contains only a small selection of the more than 160 pieces that comprise this project.

These creations were not just interesting abstract images. To me, they express the madness of the systems they describe. While the pieces stand as aesthetic objects, they inevitably invite discussion and curiosity about their origin. That curiosity furthers the process of making these secrets open knowledge. My hope is that such knowledge and awareness will help us make better choices, to live more purposefully, to hold our loved ones closer.

The Doomsday Clock currently stands at 100 seconds to midnight. It is the closest it has ever been to midnight since Albert Einstein and his cohorts instituted it in 1945 as a metaphor for the existential risk the world faces.   

David Matthew Wittig,

April 2022.


Please email for exact pricing including shipping.

Note: each piece is only available in one size.


Archival Pigment on Canvas

Edition of 5



Archival Pigment on Paper

Edition of 5



David Matthew Wittig would like to thank the following people and institutions that were instrumental in creating this work:

  • Robyn Farrell, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at The Art Institute of Chicago for exposing me to Steve McQueen’s work through her own curatorial work. 
  • Paris Chong at the Leica Gallery who on first sight understood this work and grasped its significance and potential. Her enthusiasm and support for the work have been a consistent encouragement.
  • Alex Wellerstein, professor and nuclear weapons historian, who has assembled a great collection of primary sources on his blog Nuclear Secrecy.
  • The National Security Archive at George Washington University for their excellent collection and curation of declassified FOIA documents.
  • The CIA, NSA, DOE, and many other “three-letter agencies” for their commitment to transparency and openness in posting many of these documents on their websites - as well as to the countless individuals who had the thankless task of searching for, reviewing, and redacting millions of pages at the whims of private citizens. 
  • John Greenwald Jr (who operates Black Vault), MuckRock, and the thousands of citizens of have made FOIA requests and shared them online, sometimes at great personal expense .
  • The 89th United States Congress and President Johnson for enacting the Freedom of Information Act, which I believe is one of the most amazing laws ever passed.