fran ilich on Mon, 3 Jun 2002 20:44:14 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FW: ART FOR A CHANGE - The Art of Activism

------ Mensaje reenviado
De: "Art for a Change" <>
Fecha: Sun, 2 Jun 2002 19:04:28 -0700
 <>, <>
Asunto: ART FOR A CHANGE - The Art of Activism

A review of the "Smoking Mirrors" Art Exhibit (June 1st. - 27th)
By Mark Vallen.

Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), opened a show last May that was
supposed to probe the role of Artists and Activists in a post September 11th
environment. The exhibit, "Democracy When? Activist Strategizing in Los
Angeles", had as it's raison d'etre an examination of the intersection of
Art and Politics. While the show attracted a number of people, much of the
Art was obscure at best.

Despite the well established reputation of LACE, with it's attendant weight
and influence, "Democracy When?" was thoroughly outdone by the curatorial
efforts of three UCLA Students who organized an Art exhibit titled "Smoking
Mirrors." The omnipotent Sorcerer God of the Aztecs, Tezcatlipoca, used a
smoking mirror of black obsidian as a tool of divination to reveal all
things. Living up to it's namesake, this current exhibition reveals quite a

The June 1st. Opening Reception at UCLA'S Kinross Gallery was poorly
attended, and the show suffered from flaws that can be attributed to the
exhibit being a first time effort, but despite these drawbacks "Smoking
Mirrors" delivers considerable punch when it comes to the raw power of the
messages presented by the dozen or more Artists. The exhibit continues at
the Kerchoff  Gallery on the sprawling UCLA campus until June 8th. It then
moves to the ARTS IN ACTION Center in the Pico Union district for a final
reception party on June 27th, an event not to be missed.

The show includes "up and coming" as well as established Artists. One of the
grizzled old veterans whose works are on display is Sergio Hernandez. During
the late 1960's when the Chicano movement was flowering, Hernandez worked
for "Con Safos", a Chicano cultural/political journal whose name translates
into "don't mess with this." He also painted one of the first Chicano murals
at UCLA in 1970... so the man has paid his dues. Today, Hernandez continues
Painting, but he also pursues his first love... editorial cartoons. With a
strong affinity for the downtrodden and the poor, the poison pen of
Hernandez lambastes the powerful and the corrupt. His bitter sweet pen
drawing, "Cesar Lives" is an almost religious portrayal of the principal
figure in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, Cesar Chávez. But Hernandez
also has his eye on the present... his cartoon, "I didn't see a thing!"
Shows a blind folded Uncle Sam using a General and an Oil Barron to push
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez off a gang plank.

Not to be outdone in clarity of message is the work of Papo de Asis. This
amazing Filipino Artist will tell you that "Art must serve the People", and
his incredible Paintings offer no apologies for their decidedly Proletarian
politics. His small Oils are jewel like, offering sobering glimpses of a
world seized by madness and greed. His large Banners, works created for use
in street demonstrations, are unabashed works of propaganda that extol the
international struggle against Colonialism. They are enormously colorful
works that possess great energy and passion. Papo's Banner, "Stop
Imperialist Globalization" is an animation influenced masterpiece where
wide-eyed Female heroic guerilla's and their stoic looking Male
counterparts, take on and demolish the military machine belonging to some
loathsome Fat Cats. Literally... they are mangy Cats.

The works of Cindy Suriyani focus on the realities of Sweat Shop labor and
Sexual exploitation. Ms. Suriyani, herself an immigrant from Indonesia,
possesses intimate knowledge concerning identity and displacement. She is
also adroit at denouncing the stereotypes Asian Women are saddled with. Her
wonderful Silkscreen, "I'M NOT THAT!" is a simple drawing of "Oriental" Bar
Girls being fondled by U.S. Navy Men. Combined with the exclamatory text of
the title, the Artwork is a powerful Feminist critique of White Male
arrogance and Imperial power.

Tran Truong also confronts the issue of immigration and displacement. The
Artist presents the viewer with an actual life sized boat... or rather, the
bare skeleton of one. Instead of wood siding, the body of the boat is made
of Human limbs. While the limbs are mere plaster casts, the surreal
apparition conveys a nightmarish tale of lives lost at sea while sailing to
some unobtainable freedom. Vietnam's "Boat People" easily come to mind, but
Truong's dreamlike craft also tells the story of the forgotten Haitian
refugees. Perhaps the hapless ship is also a metaphor for all of humanity,
cast adrift on a cruel sea.

With a devilish taste for parody, Artist David Dahl Khang offers us a mock
board game modeled after "Monopoly." Khang's "Globalopoly" game offers steps
with titles like "Falkland Islands - Price, 900 lives." My personal favorite
step in the game is the one reading "Die in Jail - Just Disappear."

Lola Scarpitta's naive style Oil Painting, simply titled "icon", is based on
the famous Painting by Francisco Goya showing the execution of Spanish
patriots by French Troops. Scarpitta replaced the Spanish victims with a
single heroic figure, that of Che Guevara... and the French Troops became
modern American Soldiers. The figure of Robert Mcnamara stands behind the
troops, clutching a rifle and ready to administer the final, fatal shot to

Kajah Jacobs provided a little bit of shock value humor with a giant
sculpture of an oversized Billy Club. The lifelike replica of a Policeman's
truncheon was mounted on a wall of Artworks focusing on Police abuse...
including a Silkscreen Poster of mine titled "Protect and Serve the Rich,
Jail the Homeless." The black and white Poster, created in 1987, shows a
line of faceless LAPD Riot Cops, with the work's title integrated into the
stark design. My image was based on real events. In 1987 I was living in an
Artist's loft in downtown L.A. near Little Tokyo. There were many thousands
of homeless people on the streets in the area. An agreement was made between
then Mayor Tom Bradley and LAPD Chief Darryl Gates, to physically remove the
homeless population from downtown. The LAPD posted handbills in the
community announcing to the homeless that they had a week to move... those
who did not comply would have their properties seized and would be subject
to arrest. I witnessed the weeklong Police sweeps, where the "cardboard
condos" of the homeless were razed and what little possessions the
inhabitants had were confiscated or destroyed. I created my Poster as an
immediate response, posting it in the community and even distributing copies
to the homeless.

"Smoking Mirrors" contains many other Artworks worthy of your attention, and
the  young organizers of this show should be applauded for pulling together
an exhibition of "message Art" at a time when democratic rights are being
threatened and reduced. Art has always played a transformative role in
society as it points the way to a world at last inhabitable. It allows us to
dream, it informs and inspires, it is spiritual sustenance in a starving
world. "Smoking Mirrors" asks of it's audience, and Artists everywhere,
to become a part of that transformative process.

For more information on the Smoking Mirrors exhibit,  contact the curators,
at: or call: (310) 435-8594.

Mark Vallen

------ Fin del mensaje reenviado

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