The Art of Democracy: War and Empire
Date: Sep 04 - Nov 04,2008
Reception date: Sep 04 - Nov 04,2008
Curated by Anne Brodzky, DeWitt Cheng, and Art Hazelwood
According to Peter Selz, art historian and author of Art of Engagement: Visual Politics in California and Beyond, "Not since the 1930s, facing the Great Depression and the impending danger of a Fascist New World Order, and the 60s with a previous illegal and immoral war, has there been such a great outpouring of political art. At the present, a great many artists, working in media, old and new, have again picked up their brushes, cameras or computers to protest against a foul war, destruction of the environment, obscene fiscal gains and abnegation of constitutional rights to express their rage and speak to the public."
Artists across the country, animated by response to events of the last seven years and mobilized over the past two years by Art Hazelwood, a San Francisco-based printmaker, and Stephen A. Fredericks, president of the New York, Society of Etchers have organized a series of forty exhibitions entitled Art of Democracy. The exhibitions, spanning the United States from Washington State to New Hampshire, including Puerto Rico, will analyze what went wrong within this millennium with an America that was admired not so long ago.
But the organizers of these shows hope to do more than simply indict the malefactors of great wealth; they hope to help inspire a new public spirit. The novelist Richard Flanagan, writing in Bookforum, sees the role of the artist in time of crisis as moral and humanistic, not merely esthetic: "There are so many forces in the world that divide us deeply and murderously. In recent times, we have lived through not so much a crisis of politics as a collapse of that most human attribute, empathy, a collapse so catastrophic it sometimes appears to be a crisis of love...." Art offers an alternative vision, however, Flanagan concludes: "At its best, art reminds us of all we share, of all that brings us together."
San Francisco's non-profit Meridian Gallery will host the most comprehensive of the Bay Area shows, Art of Democracy: War and Empire, from September 4 to November 4. Each national exhibition and event has its own sub theme; Meridian Gallery chose War and Empire. In addition to the exhibition featuring more than forty artists, an extensive schedule of related films, concerts, and lectures is conceived as an integral component of the show.
The Art of Democracy: War and Empire will feature work by some 40 artists filling Meridian's three-story, turn-of-the-century Beaux-Arts gem near Union Square. A few examples:
- Six large preparatory drawings by LA printmaker Sandow Birk for his Depravities of War (2007) woodcut series. The drawings are contemporary versions of The Miseries of War, by 17th-century artist Jacques Callot, dealing with the atrocities during the religious massacres of the Thirty Years' War.
- Two of the highly controversial oil on canvas paintings from Fernando Botero's Abu Ghraib torture series, recently shown at UC Berkeley to critical popular acclaim, will be on loan from American University.
- Enrique Chagoya's codex-like 7-foot long print, The Ghost of Liberty (2004), examining War and Empire within a broader historical context.
- Bella Feldman's elegant and threatening sculptures from her ongoing War Toys series.
- A large linoleum cut of war-victimized families by San Francisco printmaker Juan Fuentes.
- A ten-foot tall-woodcut, Trouble For Uncle Sam in The Green Zone (2005) by Art Hazelwood.
- An 11 foot-long painting of men in servitude by Hung Liu called Pullman (2004).
- Three passionate, ironic, comic drawings by nationally syndicated cartoonist Patrick Oliphant, who will travel from Arizona to do a book signing of his new book, Leadership: Cartoons and Sculpture from the Bush Years, on Friday September 12th at the gallery.
- A trenchant assemblage and related watercolor by Bay Area artist William T. Wiley entitled The Furor Over the Truth (2005), and a large new painting called Blood in the Water.
- In addition, a diversity of work by Bay Area graphic artists, painters, poster makers, and street artists will be shown.
Kenneth Baker review in the San Francisco Chronicle
Peter Selz review in the Berkeley Daily Planet
Contra Costa Times
James L Weaver review in San Francisco Art Magazine
Mark Taylor in KQED Arts online
Jennine Scarboro in KQED Arts online
Mark Vallen in Foreign Policy in Focus
Art is Moving video walk through Meridian Gallery show