Mark Vallen's Newsletter © Sept '04
Art Activism & Social Change
Artworks by Mark Vallen
A R T  F O R   A  C H A N G E


1) - REGIME CHANGE... 25 artists on the US national elections
2) - THE WPA DECADE... Social Realism of 1933-43 at the NY Nassau County Museum of Art
3) - TAKING OUT THE TRASH... Tate Gallery janitorial worker becomes art critic
4) - THE RENAISSANCE - OLD AND NEW... The 500th anniversary of Michelangelo's David
5) - STUCKIST PUNK VICTORIAN... The Liverpool Walker Gallery Exhibit
6) - ELECT THIS!... Artists tackle the US elections

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Painting by Wayne Coe
Corporate thuggery at Regime Change exhibit

25 artists on the
US national elections

With the US presidential elections almost upon us, the
A Shenere Velt Gallery
Los Angeles presents a group exhibition exploring the de/construction of power.

One of the works to be displayed is Wayne Coe's humorous painting (above), portraying thuggery between corporate fast food icons. Coe's artwork poses the argument in cultural terms... has the US spawned an irredeemably violent society that will remain unaffected by elections? Dozens of other artists will be asking equally profound questions in this must see exhibit. Regime Change will be on display Sept. 13th - October 31st. 2004. The Opening Reception, with many of the participating artists, will be held on Sunday, September 19th., from 3 - 5 pm. The gallery is located at, 1525 S Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035.
Phone: (310) 552-2007.


Social Realism of 1933-43
NY Nassau County Museum of Art

This exhibit traces the reaction of American artists to the great depression as well as their involvement in the federal programs of the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA). The show features art by WPA artists Reginald Marsh, Ben Shahn, Raphael Soyer, and many others.

"Mother Earth Laid Bare" painting by Alexander Hogue
"Mother Earth Laid Bare"
Alexander Hogue 1935

In 1930's America, one of the strongest currents in the art world was that of Social Realism. The social realists focused on the lives and concerns of working people, and the practitioners of the school insisted on realism as the best way of imparting their progressive messages to a mass audience. Heavily influenced by their contact with revolutionary muralists like Diego Rivera of Mexico, many US artists shared the view that art belonged to the people and that it was essential for the betterment and general
uplift of society.

These artists pushed for government support of the arts and many of them became heavily involved in the WPA. This exhibit illustrates how the US art scene benefited from WPA support, which encouraged and backed art and artists during the tumultuous 1930's.

This exhibit is currently running until October 31st., 2004. For more details, visit the NY Nassau County Museum of Art website, at:

Tate Gallery janitorial worker becomes art critic

This past August 26th, a janitor at the London Tate Gallery was doing her rounds when she noticed a bag of garbage left sitting in an exhibit area. The cleaning woman promptly threw the rubbish out, where it was done away with in a trash compactor. Only later did horrified museum personnel realize that the tossed junk (the clear trash bag filled with crumbled newspaper and other bits of debris shown at left) was the "art" of German-born post-modernist, Gustav Metzger.

It's not garbage.. it's art, really!
It's not garbage.. it's art, really!

The costly acquisition titled, Recreation of the first public demonstration of auto-destructive art, featured Metzger's trash bag propped up against a table over which hung a "painting" made of nylon daubed with acid to destroy it. Embarrassed Tate officials explained the work "wasn't roped off", so how would the cleaning woman "know what it was supposed to be?" Indeed, how are "ignorant" working people to tell the difference between art and garbage? Obviously, roping off the trash sack would have clearly transformed it into an exalted work of art.

The masterwork was eventually rescued from the trash compactor but declared too badly damaged to be put back on display. Metzger graciously "created" another bag to be placed on view, this time under stipulation that the litter bundle be locked away each evening for safe keeping from marauding janitorial art critics.

Gustav Metzger first advanced his notion of "auto-destructive art" in 1960. He has demonstrated his talents in public by "painting" stretched nylon sheets with hydrochloric acid, resulting in their disintegration and total ruin. Metzger believes all artworks ought to have a limited existence, after which they should be obliterated. If that's the case, then why was the cleaning woman not congratulated for her admirable role in helping the garbage fulfill its artistic destiny? _________________________________

Michelangelo's David
Michelangelo's David

The 500th anniversary of Michelangelo's David

One of the world's great art masterpieces will be celebrating its 500th anniversary this month, Michelangelo’s “David”. Untold millions have flocked to Florence Italy over the centuries in order to view the magnificent statue... and still they come in record numbers.

On Wednesday, September 8th, 2004, 500 years to the day that the statue was unveiled, the citizens of Florence celebrated the art treasure with fireworks, concerts, exhibitions, and symposiums. The much beloved statue has been carefully cleaned by restorers, who removed centuries worth of grime and dirt in a process that took eight months and cost $600,000.

Michelangelo was only 26 years old when he created the statue between 1502 and 1504. Carved from a single block of marble, the artist's monumental work has become one of the most enduring artworks in history. It exemplifies the renaissance spirit that viewed humanity as noble, heroic, and capable of grand accomplishments. Antonio Paolucci, superintendent of city museums in Florence, said “We want David’s 500th birthday to spark debate, to be controversial, to challenge people about what art is today… not just what it was 500 years ago."

This 500th anniversary affords us all the opportunity to contemplate the meaning of art. Today’s post-modernist dominated art world puts forth the view of humanity as corrupt and totally incapable of affecting change. The rules and traditions of art have been ridiculed and rejected to the point where even a trash bag is now considered to be high art. If Michelangelo created his remarkable statue today most museums, galleries, art publications, and art critics would simply dismiss the work as clichéd and corny… if they were to acknowledge it at all.

Despite the bourgeois art world’s obsession with all things pointless, ugly, and uninspiring, Michelangelo’s “David” remains as beautiful a testament to the human spirit as when it was first unveiled. It is the exemplar of what art can and should be.
It calls upon
modern day artists to initiate a new renaissance for our time…
a transformation already underway.


The Walker Gallery Exhibit
September 18 2004 - February
20 2005

Stuckist Punk Victorian is the first museum exhibit to recognize Stuckism, the international art movement for "contemporary figurative painting with ideas" founded in 1999 by artists Billy Childish and Charles Thomson. Stuckism offers a radical critique of post-modern art, denouncing it for being nothing more than the "dull, boring, brainless destruction of convention." Stuckists believe that figurative painting should regain dominance in the art world, and they've declared "there will be a spiritual renaissance in art because there is nowhere else for art to go." The Walker Gallery is one of the best known museums in the UK, and home to a world class collection of paintings that range from Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite masterworks to contemporary British artworks. Artists included in the gallery collection include Rubens, Rembrandt, Degas, Lucian Freud, and many others. The Walker is located at: William Brown Street, Liverpool. L3 8EL Merseyside. For more info, visit the Walker website, at:

Artists tackle the US elections

Organized by SPARC Gallery in Venice California and mounted to coincide with the national elections, the aim of this show is to "celebrate freedom of expression, provide creative commentary, reveal the unseen, and to tell the truth." Opening on Sept. 11th and running until election night Nov. 2nd., the artworks in the exhibit run the gambit from video installations and sculpture to paintings, drawings, and prints. One of the highlights of the show is a wall covered with over 1,000 small hand painted portraits of US soldiers killed so far in Iraq. An adjacent wall presents portraits representing the 10,000 or more Iraqi civilians killed to date. The result of a collaborative effort between five different artists, the "walls of mourning" present the true face of war. Mark Vallen will be displaying one of his pencil drawings, along with dozens of other artists known and unknown.

Opening Reception is Sat. Sept., 11th., from 5 - 9 pm. A panel discussion on the so-called "Patriot Act" takes place on Thur. Sept. 23rd., at 7:30 pm. An artist's talk will take place on Thurs. Oct. 21st., at 7:30 pm. The big event is the Election Night Closing Party held on Tuesday Nov. 2nd. Original artworks will be auctioned off, and more importantly, the public is invited to the gallery to celebrate (or bemoan) the election results. SPARC Gallery is located at 685 Venice Blvd., Venice California, 90291. Phone: 310-822-9560. For more details, visit:


Mark Vallen's ART FOR A CHANGE © newsletter encourages and promotes the creation of artworks that envision a just, peaceful world. If you wish to be added or removed from the AFC mailing list, or if you'd rather receive text only versions of this mailing, send an e-mail request to
"If you refuse to study anatomy, the arts of drawing and perspective, the mathematics of aesthetics, and the science of color, let me tell you that this is more a sign of laziness then of genius. Down with lazy masterpieces!"
Salvador Dali