2008: Year in Review

The waning days of 2008 represent more than just a tumultuous year coming to an end, they bring closure to decades of extreme political reaction and backwardness, at least in the U.S. – or so it appears. Whether or not we are on the threshold of a new progressive era depends upon people in their tens of millions becoming actively engaged in visualizing and building a different type of society, and that is not simply a matter of political action. Art has an enormous role to play in such a process as it allows us to dream and imagine, as well as to reveal hidden truths and possibilities. What is more, art encourages critical thinking, it provokes, challenges, and dares one to visualize the impossible – a mindset we are sorely in need of today.

This year I have written a number of articles on art and artists both past and present, I offer a selection of these writings here as a “Year in Review” presentation:

(January 15) The Los Angeles Art Students LeagueSeed of Modernism at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. An important show on the roots of modernism in L.A. during the years 1906-1953.

(February 20) The Unveiling of Robert Scull – When money became “an overbearing influence on contemporary art.” (Feb. 29) Apostles of Ugliness: 100 Years Later – The centennial of America’s very first avant-garde art movement, the so-called Ashcan School.

(March 19) Artists Against the War: A Review – To mark the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the New York Society of Illustrators mounted an exhibit titled Artists Against The War. I wrote of review of the show for the Foreign Policy in Focus website.

(April 19) The Newspeak Newseum – The latest cultural institution to be added to the U.S. capital; “The Newseum provides the clearest look yet of a cultural institution in the service of big business.” (April 26) Edward Hopper: A Retrospective – “As a youngster Hopper’s paintings provided me with an entry point into the art of the Great Depression period.”

(May 1) May 68: Posters from the Paris Rebellion – “Socially conscious graphics that to this day have not been outdone in terms of political sophistication, simplicity, and effectiveness.” (May 14) Robert Rauschenberg 1925-2008 – Eulogy for the iconoclastic Pop artist. (May 24) The Harvey Milk Public Monument – “The memorial bronze of Harvey Milk placed in San Francisco’s City Hall should be a constant reminder of what has yet to be achieved.”

(June 13) The Cologne Progressives – “A bloc of artists that represented the radical outer fringe of the Expressionist movement of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933).”

(July 4) The Orientalists: Then and NowThe Lure of the East, British Orientalist Painting at the Tate Britain. Questioning the West’s accepted wisdom regarding the Islamic world.

(September 13) War & Empire/Art of Democracy in San Francisco – “A new and vibrant social engagement in American art.” (Sept. 18) An Art World Mesmerized by Bling – “As the world burns and international financial institutions fall like so many dominoes, impulsive oligarchs and imprudent investment bankers continue to put their money into the overheated contemporary art ‘market’.”

(October 17) I wrote a review of the War & Empire exhibition for the Foreign Policy in Focus website.

(November 7) The Enduring Works of Goya – The Los Caprichos etchings and the continuing influence of the Spanish Master. (Nov. 2) Art and the Global Economic Meltdown – The “unavoidable political topic is on the lips of everyone in the art world these days.” (Nov. 21) L.A.’s MOCA in Meltdown – “MOCA’s dilemma is indicative of the crisis now rippling through the world of elite art institutions, a disaster that will only intensify as late capitalism careens into worldwide depression.”

(December 2) Josep Renau: Commitment and Culture – Celebrating the 100th birthday of the Spanish painter, poster designer, and muralist. (Dec. 4) Making a Killing in Central America – My 1989 drawing depicting two of the many thousands killed by death squads in Central America during the 1980s.

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