Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Some items of interest from _ARTNews_, April 2005 issue.

I just read through the April 2005 edition of ARTNews as part of my professional reading lists. Some items of interest:

The magazine reported that a recent exhibition by artist Leon Ferrari made leaders of the Catholic Church upset. The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, declared the exhibition to be blasphemous, which then sparked protests and acts of violence as some protesters broke into the exhibition; there were also bomb threats. The 84 year old artist is a controversial figure. During the period of the dictatorship, he was exiled in Brazil because of his views. One example of his work is the piece titled Western and Christian Civilization (1965). It was made as a protest to the Vietnam War, and it depicts Christ crucified to a fighter jet. According to the article, the retrospective exhibit is based on the artitst's opposition to the concept of hell, which he defines as "the belief by part of the population that others deserve to be punished simply for not sharing their beliefs. It is the mother of all discrimination" (62). On the other side of the issue, Catholic priest Xavier Ryckeboer lobbied to have the exhibition closed using the argument that art cannot be used as a form of aggression. A judge did close the exhibit for 18 days, but it was reopened after an appeal. The article also points out that the Catholic Church has protested other art exhibits in Argentina. In one case, the head of a Buenos Aires art foundation resigned after "alleging in the press that she had been told not to exhibit any works related to 'sex, politics, or religion'"(62). The directors of the foundation deny any censorship but they do state they plan to reduce the number of offerings in terms of exhibitions.

So, no exhibitions featuring sex, politics or religion. So, what is left if you take out all the good stuff? Are they afraid of a little bit of subversive art? I am all for people choosing what they want or not to see, and if it conflicts with their religious views, it is their right to express themselves against it by not viewing it or sponsoring, and even protesting, but doing so in a peaceful way. To use the excuse of art causes aggression, given that all art at one point or another can be aggressive, is just that, an excuse. I am definitely not for people who want to censor and deny others the right to view or read or hear something and decide for themselves if it is for them or not. In this case, it is the Catholic Church, but that institution is certainly not the only one proposing censorship of works they can't stand. This seems to be another good illustration of why the concept of separation of Church and state seems like a good idea, but also it is another example why free thinkers should be aware and willing to denounce such efforts to stiffle creativity and intellectual pursuits. Anyhow, this is my little moment of passion over censors.

Another interesting piece is the feature piece by Linda Yablonsky, "What Makes a Painting a Painting?", that asks what is a painting in an age of hybrid forms of art. The article includes various statements by artists on what defines (or redefines, or simply does without definition) painting. Just keep in mind the last line provided by Russell Ferguson, senior curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, who says that ". . .every time you come up with an answer, you can think of something to contradict it."

Finally for now, Barbara Pollack's article "The Opening China" provides an overview of the growing art scene in China as more art galleries are opening and new millionaires are supporting the art.

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