Thursday, January 27, 2005

6o Years On

by Gregg Chadwick

Raising the Red Flag Over the Reichstag, Berlin May 2, 1945
photo by Yevgeny Khaldei

Today near the site of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp world leaders gathered to remember the camp's liberation in 1945 by the Red Army. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia spoke proudly of the Soviet soldiers who gave themselves to free Auschwitz: "They switched off the ovens, they saved Krakow," Vladimir Putin said of the Soviet soldiers. But Putin also said there was still much to be ashamed of in the current situation."We unfortunately still see signs of anti-Semitism in our country."

I am reminded of the great Russian war photographer Yevgeny Khaldei. I had the honor of meeting him almost ten years ago when the end of the cold war seemed to mark an era of future peace, Yevgeny's body was starting to fail but his mind was sharp and his descriptions of the struggle against the Nazis were vivid. As a war photographer,Yevgeny adhered to the ideological confines of his superiors. It can be argued that despite the circumstances he managed to remain a true artist. "Some people think that we could do nothing at all unless we were told to do it", Yevgeny said," but the war gave one the freedom to make one's own decisions. We knew our superiors would not publish all our photographs, but we still made the pictures."

A heroic life is made up of extraordinary moments lived in the context of daily existence. Despite the horrors of Nazism and the war as well as the deprivations he suffered for being Jewish, Yevgeny was still able to see the beauty and courage hidden within the details of his experiences and offer us hope for the future. Yevgeny said," I have always tried to make photographs that will be interesting to look at today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow."

The recent string of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe , the widely publicized photograph of Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, wearing a Nazi uniform at a costume party earlier this month and a walkout by far-right German legislators during a minute's silence for Nazi victims on Friday, have raised concerns that the horrors of the Holocaust are being forgotten. It is my call as an artist not to forget, but instead to create art in the spirit of Yevgeny Khaldei that marks the moments of our time.

  • also see:art for a change: the art of liberated auschwitz
  • Saturday, January 22, 2005

    Game 6 -Red Sox, Death & the Critic

    White Noise
    60"x60" oil on linen 2002

    Don DeLillo's first film, "Game 6", is being screened at Sundance tonight. For those in Park City this evening find your way to a ticket. DeLillo is the masterful novelist whose work includes Underworld, Mao II, The Body Artist and White Noise (which inspired my painting of the same title). The film sounds intriguing and like much of DeLillo's work the screenplay is darkly humorous.
    Michael Keaton stars as a playwright and lifelong Red Sox fan who skips out on his new play's opening night, October 25, 1986, to catch Game 6 of the World Series. While a merciless, gun toting critic, played by Robert Downey Jr. views the play in disguise, Michael Keaton watches in horror as his beloved Red Sox fall to the Mets. In the original draft, discussed in an interview with Don DeLillo by Jennifer Altman in the Los Angeles Times, the playwright and the critic eventually engage in an artist's gunfight (doesn't Chris Burden come to mind?). The only victim - the critic's cat. Bowing to pressure DeLillo rescued the cat in re-writes. Don DeLillo decribes his work as the "mixing of ordinary life with an occasional cosmic meditation."

    Directed by Michael Hoffman

    Michael Keaton in Don DeLillo's Game 6

    Thursday, January 20, 2005

    reading neruda

    Gregg Chadwick
    ciudad de la memoria
    38"x38" oil on linen 2005
    Private Collection, Beverly Hills

    At times a work of art from years before still speaks directly to the present moment. I was reading Neruda today miles away from the coronation in D.C. This mix of Neruda's words and my most recent painting, "Ciudad de la Memoria", seemed to spark something new and important while at the same time bringing light to America's dark shadows.

    "La United Fruit Co."

    Cuando sonó la trompeta, estuvo
    todo preparado en la tierra
    y Jehová repartió el mundo
    a Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
    Ford Motors, y otras entidades:
    la Compañía Frutera Inc.
    se reservó lo más jugoso,
    la costa central de mi tierra,
    la dulce cintura de América.
    Bautizó de nuevo sus tierras
    como "'Repúblicas Bananas",
    y sobre los muertos dormidos,
    sobre los héroes inquietos
    que conquistaron la grandeza,
    la libertad y las banderas,
    estableció la ópera bufa:
    enajenó los albedríos,
    regaló coronas de César,
    desenvainó la envidia, atrajo
    la dictadura de las moscas,
    moscas Trujillo, moscas Tachos,
    moscas Carias, moscas Martínez,
    moscas Ubico, moscas húmedas
    de sangre humilde y mermelada,
    moscas borrachas que zumban
    sobre las tumbas populares,
    moscas de circo, sabias moscas
    entendidas en tiranía.

    Entre las moscas sanguinarias
    la Frutera desembarca,
    arrasando el café y las frutas
    en sus barcos que deslizaron
    como bandejas el tesoro
    de nuestras tierras sumergidas.

    Mientras tanto, por los abismos
    azucarados de los puertos,
    caían indios sepultados
    en el vapor de la mañana:
    un cuerpo rueda, una cosa
    sin nombre, un número caído
    un racimo de fruta muerta
    derramada en el pudridero.

    - Pablo Neruda

    "The United Fruit Co."

    When the trumpet sounded, everything
    on earth was prepared
    and Jehovah distributed the world
    to Coca Cola Inc., Anaconda,
    Ford Motors and other entities:
    The Fruit Company Inc.
    reserved the juiciest for itself,
    the central coast of my land,
    the sweet waist of America.
    It re-baptized the lands
    "Banana Republics"
    and on the sleeping dead,
    on the restless heroes
    who'd conquered greatness,
    liberty and flags,
    it founded a comic opera:
    it alienated free wills,
    gave crowns of Caesar as gifts,
    unsheathed jealousy, attracted
    the dictatorship of the flies,
    Trujillo flies, Tachos flies,
    Carias flies, Martinez flies,
    Ubico flies, flies soppy
    with humble blood and marmelade,
    drunken flies that buzz
    around common graves,
    circus flies, learned flies
    adept at tyranny.

    The Company disembarks
    among the blood-thirsty flies,
    brim-filling their boats that slide
    with the coffee and fruit treasure
    of our submerged lands like trays.

    Meanwhile, along the sugared up
    abysms of the ports,
    indians fall over, buried
    in the morning mist:
    a body rolls, a thing
    without a name, a fallen number,
    a bunch of dead fruit
    spills into the pile of rot.

    -Translated by Jack Hirschman from The Essential Neruda