Newsletter. June. 2004
& Social Change
A R T F O R
A C H A N G E
1) - MORE THAN A WITNESS... Mark Vallen's upcoming solo exhibition
2) - ART UNDER ATTACK... Thugs terrorize San Francisco Art Gallery
out of existence
3) - ERNST FRIEDRICH... Krieg dem Krieg!
4) - GRAPHIC AGITATION II... Vallen's artwork included in new
book on Political Graphics
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COMING JULY/AUGUST 2004
MORE THAN A WITNESS
A retrospective exhibition encompassing thirty
years of socially conscious artworks.
Oil painting by Vallen)
Known as the advocate
of a new social realism, Vallen's thought-provoking artworks confront
the public with a myriad of political
and social issues. With
paintings, drawings, and prints, Vallen documented the upheavals
and social realities that helped to shape the face of L.A. The
topics addressed by the artist range from the Vietnam War to the
battlefields of Central America, and the resulting waves of immigration
these conflicts engendered. Vallen submerged himself in the city's
original 1977 punk rock explosion, and created portraits of the
fans and musicians involved. The artist's brush railed against
apartheid and the Cold War of the 1980's, and captured the Rodney
King riots of 1991. This solo exhibition will present a chronology
of studio works, pieces created as public art, illustrations produced
for books and newspapers, and artworks never before shown.
The A Shenere Velt Gallery of the Workmen's
Circle/Arbeter Ring in Los Angeles will be presenting
the Vallen retrospective starting July
12th and running until August
26th., 2004. The
Artist's Reception will be
Saturday July 17th, 6 - 9 pm.
San Francisco Art Gallery
out of existence
May 16th, Lori Haigh opened a show at her Capobianco
Gallery that featured the works of established artist
Guy Colwell. The exhibit displayed
the artist's realistic and quasi-abstract oils known for their
keen social observation and
owner Lori Haigh, assaulted and terrorized
One of Colwell's paintings,
titled Abuse, depicted the
torture of Iraqi prisoners by their U.S. jailers at Abu
Ghraib prison. The painting was placed in the gallery
window, and two days later all hell broke loose. First eggs were
thrown at the building and trash dumped on the doorstep... then
came the obscene calls and death threats left on the gallery's
answering machine. One such caller said, "I think you need
to get your gallery out of this neighborhood before you get hurt."
Haigh removed Colwell's
painting from the gallery window but the harassment continued
with new death threats recorded on her phone machine. Then one
day a man entered the gallery, stepped up to Haigh at her desk...
and spat forcefully in her face. But the worst came a few days
later when another unidentified man threw a hard punch at Haigh's
face when she answered a knock at the gallery door, leaving her
with cuts and bruises and a terrible black eye.
art being removed from the Gallery
and isolated, and out of security concerns for her two children
(ages 14 and 4), Haigh decided to close her gallery. She requested
of exhibiting artists that they remove their works from the artspace,
and then permanently closed the doors. An upcoming exhibit by
artist Winston Smith had to be canceled. For the first time in
recent U.S. history, an art gallery has been terrorized out of
business by violent thugs motivated by political reasons.
shocking assault upon our first amendment rights carries with
it profound implications, not just for the arts community... but
for all Americans. Will galleries, curators, artists, and museums
rally to defend the Capobianco Gallery, or will silence and indifference
encourage attacks upon others? Will artists be cowed and coerced
into producing "safe" artistic statements, or will they
rise to the occasion to become honest and fearless social critics?
The time for fence sitting has long since past.
San Francisco Examiner interviewed Guy Colwell, who had this to
say about the attacks: "I was very upset about the revelation
of abuses and torture happening in Iraq -- so upset that I almost
immediately sat down and began painting a picture, which I happen
to consider to be a form of protest. Apparently, people are quite
shocked by my painting, I don't know why they are not equally
or more shocked by the pictures they are seeing on television
of the actual torture taking place. I have worked for peace and
justice most of my life. I think that is a very American thing
to do. I am not anti-American, I'm anti-torture. I'm anti-cruelty.
I'm anti-hypocrisy. I don't want to be lied to any more by our
government, and I stand by my work."
View a large version of Guy Colwell's controversial
Krieg dem Krieg!
the Germany of the 1920's, Ernst Friedrich was already well known
for having produced a book of WW1 photos captioned with pointedly
anti-militarist captions. In his book, "Krieg dem Krieg"
(War against War), Friedrich juxtaposed photos of horribly maimed
soldiers against insipid quotes from his nation's bellicose leaders.
and after Nazis destroyed Friedrich's Antiwar Museum
The book infuriated
Germany's elites, but inspired artists like Otto
George Grosz, and others in the Expressionist
movement. Emboldened by the success of his book and the influence
it had, Friedrich opened an Anti-War
Museum in Berlin. The gallery/museum quickly became
a center for cultural activities during the early thirties, showing
paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs of a pacifist nature.
In March 1933, Nazi storm troopers seized his Anti-War Museum,
destroyed it's contents, and transformed the building into what
was to become one of Berlin's most feared torture chambers. In
their quest to shape by fist and club a national art that extolled
homeland, hearth, and racial purity, the Nazis had attempted to
eliminate people like Ernst Friedrich. Luckily Friedrich escaped
going to a death camp and went into exile (He lived and worked
in France, where he died in 1967).
ideas about art were clear, "It is not the function
of art to wallow in dirt for dirt's sake, never its task to paint
the state of decomposition, to draw cretins as the symbol of motherhood,
to picture hunchbacked idiots as representatives of manly strength"
(Nüremberg rally 1935). Hermann
Goering, Commander in Chief of the Gestapo, expressed his attitude
towards the non-state sanctioned arts by saying, "Whenever
I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver." The meaning
of those words made it perfectly clear that art
was regarded by the Nazis as the realm of subversion and madness,
a space occupied by "parasites" who were "anti-German",
"unpatriotic", and undermining the strength and purpose
of the state.
It is wholly inaccurate
and beyond the pale to compare the United States with the fanatical
nightmare society that was Nazi Germany, which makes it all the
more unacceptable that some Americans would agree with the Nazi
definition of art. When violent men succeed in forcing an art
gallery out of business because they don't like the paintings
on the wall (as is the case with the Capobianco Gallery in San
Francisco), then we should all be hearing the echoes of a terrible
Today the work of Ernst Friedrich continues. His Anti-War
Museum reopened in Berlin in 1982, and is run by his grandson,
Tommy Spree. Visit the museum, at:
II: SOCIAL & POLITICAL GRAPHICS IN THE DIGITAL AGE
is Liz McQuiston's latest book on the subject of protest art.
Published by Phaidon Press and comprehensively illustrated, the
book presents dissident artworks from the traditional to the shocking,
from high-tech to no-tech. Paintings, drawings, and posters are
displayed side by side with street art, postcards, t-shirts...
even screen grabs of websites.
Vallen's 1991 anti-Gulf War
silkscreen poster, New World Odor
is included in this essential and exhaustive study of modern protest
available in Europe, Graphic Agitation II is scheduled for distribution
in fine bookstores across the United States come late June. You
can pre-order your copy of the book at: Amazon.com
|Mark Vallen's ART FOR A CHANGE website
serves as a resource center for Art Activism. It encourages and
promotes the creation of artworks that envision a just, peaceful
world. Please inform others of this site, and forward this notice
to all appropriate lists and individuals. If you wish to be added
or removed from the AFC mailing list, or if you'd rather receive
a text only version of this mailing... send an e-mail request
"Democracy, I would
repeat, is the noblest form of government we have yet evolved,
and we may as well begin to ask ourselves whether we are ready
to suffer, even perish for it, rather than readying ourselves
to live in the lower existence of a monumental banana republic
with a government always eager to cater to mega-corporations as
they do their best to appropriate our thwarted dreams with their
elephantiastical conceits." ~