Friday, February 26, 2010

Radical Printmaking in the Bay Area

The Great Tortialla Conspiracy. Prints on Tortillas. Here they are cooking at the opening. And you can see they are anti war tortillas

Christina Empedocles made this amazing tree out of birds. The detail is below

Enrico Chagoya wove this rug.

THe Electric Works, Collaboration: anti war slot machine
Enrique Chagoya If you look hard you can see this is a one recession bill

Victor Cartagena did these commemorative tea bags for the disappeared of El Salvador.

This is an installation by Victor Cartagena about The disappeared in El Salvador. He is using photographs that he found in a passport photo shop that were never picked up. They are not necessarily the same people who were disappeared by the military regime, they evoke the disappearance of individuals.

This stunning and provocative exhibition Prints Byte is at SOmARts Cultural Center in San Francisco. It is all the imaginative ways of making a print, these are only a few works in the show, and they are all anti war. More to come

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Black History Month in Seattle II City Hall

This is the sculpture of Roosevelt Lewis who is featured in City Hall with sculptures and paintings in the main lobby. Roosevelt Lewis is a Seattle artist with roots in the Black, Creole, and Cajun people of Louisiana, a place near the Cane River of intensely mixed cultures. This piece is called Do No More Violence to Women.
It honors the women of his family and all women as they stand up to violence in our society.

This sculpture is called Generations. You can see one generation rising out of another in the single carved poplar log. The sense of a connection over time, suggests his deep connections to his past generations in Louisiana

He is also showing paintings what might be called a folk art style by mainstream critics. He is self taught and began making art by scavenging in dumps as a child in Louisiana. He had no library or art works to look at. When he was in the army in France he saw African art for the first time.The forms of his paintings are simple and flattened, his sense of color and space aligns with the work of Jacob Lawrence ( see below) as well as somewhat like Matisse. What makes the difference between what is considered folk art ( unsophisticated) and what is considered so called fine art? Of course for a long time people characterized Jacob Lawrence as a folk artist.

What is exciting about the exhibition is that it is an intervention in City Hall as you can see in this installation shot. Lewis is prominently displayed in the main lobby. On the balcony above ( which you can't see) are black and white photographs of white men lined up in rows.

This is Marita Dingus's well known work "Buddha as an African Enslaved" inspired by her visit to China in 1995 when she saw a gigantic Buddha statue. She chose to put work on a lower floor so that Roosevelt Lewis could be prominent in the main space. Her sculpture is experienced from a very close perspective as you walk down a narrow hall. I think it is hard to appreciate it from such a close perspective, but you can see in detail the way that she uses recycled materials.
Black History Month. Yes, it is true that we still need it. Our society does not yet have an integrated public discourse. So lots of focus on African Americans this month is providing us with some important insights, especially in the age of Obama. I have been hearing on our community radio station a lot of discussion by middle class black professionals about Obama. They are suggesting that he show more spunk and stand up to the pressures on him. Of course, they support him, but they wish he would be willing to be more of a leader and drop all of the bipartisan emphasis. I see Obama as surrounded by incredibly powerful forces. We can't expect him to change everything single handedly. We have to get out and shout for what we want. No more war, single payer health care, peace in the Middle East. Black man in the white house or white man in the white house, we still have to get out and shout. These exhibitions remind us of how much of our country's heritage is hidden from sight. So are many of our good ideas. We can't let the oligarchy or the tea party make off with our real identity as an energetic, diverse society.

Black History Month in the Seattle Art Scene

The Ethnic Art Gallery in the Seattle Municipal Tower is on the third floor. It exists thanks to the hard work of a group of dedicated city employees. Esther Ervin curated the exhibition for Black History Month called Interpreting the Black Journey Eight Viewpoints. These are two of her works that were not in the show . The one in the foreground is called River of No Return and refers to Salmon runs.
There are eight artists in the exhibition. Yadisa Boija, Esther Ervin, Al Doggett, Eddie Walker, Sultan Mohammed, George Jennings, Donald Leonard, and Fasika Moges. How many of those artists have you seen shown in Seattle art galleries?They don't fit the mainstream definition perhaps, their work is too realistic, or too abstract, or too personal ? There is a subtle difference between artists whose work is acceptable for commercial galleries and art that is not. Most of these artists went to art school, most of them support themselves in an art related field. But they follow their own paths. They are not trying to fit in with a current style or a current issue.

They are all artists of African American heritage. But there are other artists of African American heritge who show in commercial galleries also like Ron Hill and Marita Dingus, so this is not a simple question of racism. I will do an image gallery to show you all of their work. You can decide for yourself why they don't swim with the famous fish of art.

Sultan Mohammed Riots 2007 This is the story of the revenge and rebellion of Queen Yodit (Judith)who ousted the ruler of the ancient Axum Kingdom. and ruled as a warrior queen for forty years, according to legend.
George Jennings NaKeesa A portrait of his wife

Fasika Moges Dawn Dancing
referring to women playing drums. Fasika is Ethiopian
David Leonard David ( as in David and Goliath- overcoming obstacles of his life)

Al Doggett Samburu Land -looking over his lost land. The guard in the exhibition told me how much he loved this work because he was from East Africa and was eager to tell me about the Masai who live there.

Eddie Walker, James W. Washington Jr. Working

Yadisa Boija Recession an artist from Ethiopia. He says "We hear about the struggles of corporate financial institutions. We worry about the spending habits of consumers, charts, polls graphs. But who cares about ordinary people?"
The title of this work is Invisibles and Boija's label says that it "chronicles the life and struggles of immigrants new to their community and unaccepted in their homeland. They walk quietly unnoticed and unrecognized. "

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sanctions, Divestment to End the Israeli Occupation

That is eighty year old Judith Kolokoff next to me at what we called an informational demonstration at Trader Joe's. We are nationwide and internationally joining people who are calling for divestment of Israeli investments and sanctions against Israeli products. Trader Joe's carries cheese made on a farm that was land taken from Palestinians.
It carries herbal pastes and coucous with a Trader Joe package that come from Israel. We are letting people know that they should not buy these products in support of the international boycott. Personally, I brought some of the cheese up to the service desk and complained and they said the company policy was to let people vote with their pocketbooks. So I have voted by not shopping at Trader Joe's anymore ( that I realize is too extreme for most people, but their packaging is also terrible, and they carry endangered fish as well). The Israeli boycott campaign is not asking people to stop shopping at Trader Joe's, only to stop buying products made in Israel.
Judith Kolokoff has a beautiful smile. She is a beautiful person. She told me that she has been demonstrating since she was ten years old in Chicago, when her parents were opposing Franco, Nazis, and fascism in Spain in the Spanish Civil War. She is a testimony to the fact that demonstrating is good for your health! I felt much better after this one hour of participating, than just sitting at home grumbling. If everyone got out for a cause just one hour a week, we would all be happier.
People say it doesn't make any difference to demonstrate. But did you know that fire ants brought down the super conducting, supercollider in Texas. They were all on it and they destroyed it. We can do the same.
The new Obama budget includes 3 billion in military aid to Israel, but we can't afford basic health care for people in the U.S. If you want to know how much your state is spending on military hardward for Israel, look at this website. In my state, Washington, up to 2018 we are giving 731,757,769.