Category Archives: Political Graphics

Peace Press: The Art of Its Cooks (Arena One Gallery)

Monday, June 5, 2017

For 20 years, Peace Press functioned as a collective of political and social dissidents, and their steadfast devotion to the ideals of the Bill of Rights assisted thousands of people devoted to radical alternatives in the American economy. Stalked by the FBI in its early years, and no doubt subject to continued monitoring once Reagan became President, Peace Press is fondly remembered by many who protested inequity in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

As a tribute to all those who took the risk of working for causes that were not popular then, and are still not popular, Arena One Gallery in Santa Monica is sponsoring an exhibit of artists who worked in one capacity or another for Peace Press. Working in a print shop involves tasks that require more physical effort than one might expect, and certainly working on your feet can itself build up an appetite by mid-day. If an army marches on its belly, so do those opposed to that militarism. Since artists needed jobs after they graduated from places such as California Institute of the Arts, they found a ready-made job in Peace Press’s kitchen. I confess that the title of this exhibit confused me slightly at first. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to take it literally. One normally associates cooks with restaurants, but in this case the restaurant was the noon-time, in-house menu that was provided by a series of artists whose day job was cooking for the workers at the press.

There is a catalogue that reproduces several pieces of work on exhibit by each of the artists, along with a short statement by the artists, who include Nancy Youdelman, Jan Martin, Maud Simmons, Henry Kline, Carol Kaufman, Christina Schlesinger, Anni Siegel, Linda Shelp, and Steve Volpin. My four favorite pieces in the show were Anni Siegel’s “Evening Caryatids,” Linda Shlep’s “Golden Eyes,” Maud Simmons’s “Dreaming in Color 2,” and Carol Kaufman’s “Untitled” pieces. I especially regret that I didn’t get to spend enough time on my first visit to this galley with Kaufman’s work, which intrigued me for the way her pieces seemed to echo Agnes Martin. Nancy Youdelman’s pieces were also more complex than my first glance remitted. Her dresses had a sculptural quality, in that they seemed sufficiently “embroidered” with a cobblestone collage of buttons and other tiny mounds of shiny convections such that there was a hint of the effect of a bas-relief. I would be remiss in finishing this brief commentary if I did not emphasize how much Anni Siegel’s work impressed me. “Evening Caryatids” has a tone of dignified exuberance to its composition, both in color and in the undertones of the colors, that made the centered angle dividing one side of an ancient temple from another balance the gravitational pull of the centuries encased in the stone. The passage of time, in all its organic momentum, revealed itself in the deceptively inorganic pulse of the mineral world out of which the caryatids surfaced.

There will be a poetry reading with Michael C. Ford, Dinah Berland, and Julia Stein on Saturday, June 17th, at 2:00 p.m., and I look forward to a more extended visit.

THE ART OF THE COOKS OF PEACE PRESS
June 3 – July 1, 2017
Area one Gallery
3026 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405
www.santamonicaartstudios.com

Sandy Flees Jackson, Michigan (Trump Territory)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sandy Flees Jackson, Michigan

Last summer, I happened to find myself in Jackson, Michigan, and ended up using the public library in order to write my friends Larry and Nancy Goldstein in Ann Arbor about the possibility of visiting them before I headed back to Long Beach. Although I was willing to take the train, they very kindly saved me the trouble and made a round-trip to pick me up, where I spent what proved to be a very delightful time with them. After writing from a computer in Jackson’s library, I went to a local version of an enormous grocery outlet, at the front area of which, near the cash registers, was one of those children’s mechanical rides that I remember along with gumball machines as being ever-present, if infrequently used, in my childhood. The price tag on the ride seemed to be less of a “loss leader” than a comment on the disparity between what jobs paid and what things cost. If “Sandy” could have voted, she would have shown some horse sense and cast her lot with Bernie Sanders. At that point in the election, though, she had little choice but to get the hell out of Jackson.

It is a grossly overweight town. While I certainly need to lose more than a few pounds as I verge on my 70th birthday, I had never before been around so many young and middle-aged people whose girths reflected bad diets. Given that Jackson voted overwhelmingly for Trump, one has to wonder about the relationship between a diet lacking in sufficient vegetables and fruits and political naivete. I suspect that their allegiance to a fast food regimen hasn’t changed since the inauguration of the 45th president, so those of us who want a government that respects intelligent imagination have work ahead of us that will require us to take control of the political machinery. For too long, we have sold our votes for a penny a ride.

One Cent Sign - Jackson

Trump and Snoop Doggy Dog: “Bang” and the Second Amendment

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A recent video made by Snoop Doggy Dog includes an image of a gun being pointed at a figure with a Donald Trump mask: the word “Bang” comes out of the gun.

As an initial comment, there is little else to say than this video is completely unacceptable, as it currently stands, and deserves denunciation by anyone who wants to preserve a constitutional civility in this nation. Snoop Doggy Dog needs to have a serious talk with a lawyer about what is protected free speech.

On the other hand, if Snoop Doggy Dog had pointed the gun and had the words “Second Amendment” pop out of the barrel, we might have a very interesting artistic statement. For one thing, it would serve to remind us that Donald Trump himself has used a citation of the Second Amendment to indulge in a nod-and-wink comment that amounted to an assassination threat against Hillary Clinton. If Trump could toy with the Second Amendment to threaten the life of his opponent without any reprisal or public legal rebuke, why would a similar usage by Snoop Doggy Dog cause him to be treated any differently? Unfortunately, the video is already out.

Regardless of how Snoop Doggy Dog made his video, Trump’s threat remains a far more serious and permanent stain on the current discourse. Let there be no mistake about it. When Donald Trump casually dropped a suggestion, at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, in August, 2016, that the “Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton, anyone who understood the rhetoric of crude implication did not have to think very hard as to what Trump intended to underline with his body language: he meant that people could take the law into their own hands and assassinate her. Nor did his implications stop there. Was it not also implicitly a threat against the life of anyone supporting her? Why would anyone inspired by Trump’s alleged sense of humor stop with just HRC? Remember Ted Nugent’s call to action in 2012 to “chop their heads off in November”? Trump knew very well what he was saying and to whom he was speaking, and he needs to be reminded that he will continue to be held accountable for the “bang” that his words deliver.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/not-what-the-second-amendment-is-for/495191/

And while we’re on the subject, let us remember that Trump’s dictatorial disdain for those who opposed him extended to Obama, too. As I pointed out last October 30 (and I reprint that post below), the entire nation saw a widely circulated image of President Obama with a lynch rope around his neck. Trump’s silence about that image equalled approval, and his refusal to denounce in no uncertain terms his extremist followers continues to be one of his few consistent traits. This has surfaced in particular in his reticence in speaking out against the numerous bomb threats against Jewish community centers in this country.

I’ll say it again because it cannot be said often enough: “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, but every racist voted for Trump.” (Thank you, Michael Lally.) However, a video such as the one made by Snoop Doggy Dog is not going to transform the hearts and minds of those who voted for him. Of course, I doubt that what I have just written in today’s blog post will illuminate them, either.

What, then, is to be done?

* * * * *

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Darkness at the Center of Wisconsin

https://www.yahoo.com/sports/news/fan-wears-barack-obama-mask-with-a-noose-at-nebraska-wisconsin-040333264.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3887230/Football-fan-Wisconsin-Nebraska-game-asked-remove-offensive-costume-showing-President-Obama-noose-neck.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

The story is that the fan was asked to remove the “offensive components” costume.

That’s all?

Why was the fan not immediately investigated for making a death threat against the President?

This is not a “costume,” but a death threat, and the specificity of advocating the execution of the President is made all the more clear by the fact that it is not the person wearing the costume whose hand is holding up the noose, but the arm of a person standing alongside the depiction of President Obama. In the photograph, an arm wearing a red sleeve juts into the air at an angle that can only mean that the white fist jerking the noose upwards belongs to another person. It is a blunt portrayal of a racist execution.

This is not an issue of free speech, which would include the right to wear a prison outfit with a mask of Obama, just as free speech includes the right to chant “Lock her up,” as Trump’s partisans do whenever Hillary Clinton’s name in mentioned. One may not like a message, but free speech allows messengers safe passage. Provocative and outrageous speech is protected by our Constitution. However, in depicting the execution of President Obama, the individuals at a football stadium in Wisconsin flagrantly transgressed the boundary of free speech.

Death threats are not free speech, especially in an image meant invoke the heyday of the KKK. Within the context of a newspaper associated with the KKK all but giving its straightforward endorsement to Donald Trump, this so-called costume represents crude propaganda at its most harrowing level.

If there is not at least a brief detention and interrogation of the fan and his “prop assistant” for making a death threat against President Obama, then it is fair to say that this costume represents the values of a cadre within the Secret Service; in this instance, the person in charge of the Secret Service has the obligation to act in a manner that proves otherwise.

I would note that a report that Secret Service conducted an investigation in an instance that involved a far less public venue.

Playing with Fire and an Obama Effigy

Why should this incident in Wisconsin be treated with any less seriousness?

The failure of University of Wisconsin officials to understand the gravity of the image is quite remarkable. Simply asking a person to remove the “offensive parts” of the costume represents a lack of courage in standing up to a bully. In making a statement that was nothing short of a death threat against the President, the person wearing the costume and his assistant forfeited their right to remain at the game and should have been removed from the stadium.

The University was probably afraid of being accused of censorship. There is an easy answer. The people were removed from the stadium in order to have their identities firmly established by police officials so that the Secret Service could begin their investigation.

Finally, we should all take note: the desire expressed by these two people in the football stands in Wisconsin is not limited to President Obama. First him, then his supporters. If anyone is so naïve to think that the two people who concocted this outfit will be satisfied with President Obama’s death, then they need to review 20th century history. As the poet Don Gordon said, “We are only on leave from Auschwitz.”

As a postscript that occurred to me a couple hours after posting this, I think it is fair to say that those who doubted the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate would most likely be the ones inclined to defend this person’s advocacy of a Presidential death certificate as free speech. “If attacking one end of a life spectrum doesn’t work, then try the other extreme,” would seem to be their preference.

I do look forward to the conclusion of the current general election, and the chance to concentrate on books of poetry again. To neglect the havoc generated by a fascist with international ambitions would be an unforgivable omission on my part, however.

CORRECTION: The original post for this commentary mistakenly stated that the football game took place in Nebraska, whereas the University of Nebraska was playing a road game in Wisconsin.

“Respecta Mi Existencia o Espera Resistencia” — Victoria Garcia

Political Graphics: Peace Press and the Amplifier Foundation

The Huffington Post is carrying a story about the Amplifier Foundation and its project of feminist posters aligned with the Women’s Marches. Before I provide the links to the foundation and the work of a few of its impressive artists (some of which can be downloaded for free), I want to call your attention to the work of Peace Press in Los Angeles, a progressive printing company that made its facilities available to numerous causes between 1967-1987. The Center for the Study of Political Graphics has an archive of the posters produced at Peace Press, which they have loaned out to various institutions for retrospective exhibitions. Their website link is http://www.politicalgraphics.org. When I went to that site, an invitation to receive a daily poster selected by CSPG popped up on the screen. Obviously, CSPG is not merely the custodian of an archive, but is still active in promoting its cause, which might be summed up in a sentence I jotted down earlier this morning: Progressive policy is the people’s politics.

The L.A. Fine Print Fair in West Hollywood held a benefit for CSPG last night (February 3) for CSPG, and I wish I could have attended. There was also an art opening by Kathi Flood in Burbank, and a performance of a collaboration by Darrell Larson and Rob Sullivan at Beyond Baroque in Venice. Unfortunately, I had to be in a conference call with my brother, Jim, about the situation of our 95 year old mother and was unable to leave home.

Make yourself a cup of strong tea, and spend a half-hour with the following links and artists.

http://lbpost.com/life/12325-art-social-change-peace-press-posters-uam
http://laassubject.org/article/exhibit-opening-peace-press-graphics-1967-1987-art-pursuit-social-change
http://web.csulb.edu/~uam/UAM%20Files/Peace%20Press/PressRelease_PeacePress_August2011.pdf
http://peacepress.org

http://theamplifierfoundation.org/experiments/womens-march/

I especially recommend the following posters:

KATE DECICCIO, “Embracing EachOther”
VICTORIA GARCIA, “Respeta”
LIZA DONOVAN, “Hear Our Voice”
JESS X. SNOW – “Long Live Our 4 Billion Year Old Mother”
ANN LEWIS – The Future Is Now & It’s Female”

http://theamplifierfoundation.org/all-artists/

http://theamplifierfoundation.org/artists/melanie-cervantes/
http://theamplifierfoundation.org/artists/robert-montgomery/
http://theamplifierfoundation.org/artists/cheyenne-randall/