Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Phil Cousineau and Gregg Chadwick at Esalen Redux

This upcoming weekend Phil and I will be presenting the second in a series of exploratory workshops at the Esalen Institute.

Gregg Chadwick
"Immersed in Silence"
60"x48" oil on linen 2006

Upcoming Workshop at Esalen,Big Sur

Phil Cousineau & Gregg Chadwick


"Genius is the power for lighting your own fire." -- Emerson

For thousands, one of the profound mysteries of human adventure has been the creative impulse. The irrepressible urge to leave our mark, to express ourselves, is an essential part of what makes us human. But while creativity is as natural as breathing, it is also notoriously elusive, challenging, and riddled with ordeals--like any grand adventure.

This workshop will use a three-stage model of the Creative Journey -- Inspiration, Process, Realization-- to explore what it means to harness our imagination and tend our creative fires over the course of a lifetime. To explore this possibility, the course will use innovative exercises to encourage fresh ways of seeing, hearing, and feeling. These include listening for the color of music while drawing, sketching word colors while working on a poem; using photographs, movies and music to help break through creative block.

The leaders will also share the secrets which have allowed them to break their own creative blocks, such as Phil's sketching to help rekindle his powers of observation, and Gregg's use of writing and reading poetry and working with music to help him constellate new work.

There will be slideshows, film-clips, music, and discussion to help crystalize where students are on their own unique journey -- and what they need to make their vision a realilty.

This passion - filled workshop will appeal to artists, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, as well as teachers, parents, psychologists, and business leaders -- all who are fascinated with the creative adventure.

For reservations and more info see: Cousineau and Chadwick
Address: Esalen Institute 55000 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920-9616
Esalen's Fax: 831-667-2724

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Remembering Ruth Bernhard

Ruth Bernhard
"In the Box"
gelatin silver print

"My aim is to transform the complexities of the figure into harmonies of simplified forms revealing the innate reality, the life force, the spirit, the inherent symbolism and the underlying remarkable structure – to isolate and give emphasis to form with the greatest clarity."
-Ruth Bernhard

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the photographer Ruth Bernhard died yesterday in San Francisco. Ruth Bernhard was a vital presence in the Bay Area art world. I remember running into her at a gallery opening south of Market a few years ago. Her eyes were like open lenses. She seemed to embody Christopher Isherwood's phrase - "I am a Camera."
In "Goodbye to Berlin" (published in 1939), Isherwood writes:

"I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Someday, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed."

For Christopher Isherwood and Ruth Bernhard, Berlin between the wars provided a starting point for future artistic explorations. Ruth Bernhard was born in Berlin in 1905. She studied photography at the Berlin Academy of Art, and moved to New York in 1927 before the onslaught of Nazism. In 1935 she met Edward Weston in California. Peter Marshall writes about this event:

"In 1935, also the year she became an American citizen, that Bernhard first met Edward Weston on a beach in Santa Monica, California. It was a meeting that was to change her life. Until then she had seen photography as a matter of finding a solution to a problem, largely as a design exercise to meet a commercial need. Seeing Weston's work, and talking with him was an epiphany that awakened her to the creative artistic possibilities of the medium."

Ruth was inspired by this meeting, traveled west from New York to work with Weston and eventually resettled in San Francisco.

Ruth Bernhard
"Rice Paper"
gelatin silver print

Ruth brought a forceful presence into her black and white photographs of the figure. Weston's work, though formally exquisite, could seem psychologically hollow in comparision to Bernhard's knowing interpretation of the female form.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Philadelphia Museum of Art Accepting Donations to Save Eakins from Wal-Mart Heiress

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is making an effort to keep Eakins' "The Gross Clinic" in Philadelphia. Please note that everyone who supports this cause can help by making a donation to a fund specifically set up to purchase the painting:
Save "The Gross Clinic"
Your donations will contribute to the $68 million needed and will send a powerful message that the American public wants to stop the plundering of America's libraries and collections.

More at:
Save "The Gross Clinic"
Keep "The Gross Clinic" in Philadelphia

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Reading Obama on Thanksgiving

Barack Obama

I have been reading Barack Obama's new book, "The Audacity of Hope" on this Thanksgiving. Obama's astute words on Abraham Lincoln brought to mind the ongoing need for healing, thanks and humility in the United States. On October 3, 1863 as the Civil War raged, President Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday in November:

"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise... for deliverances and blessings, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, and commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Keep Eakins' "Gross Clinic" in Philadelphia

Thomas Eakins
"Gross Clinic"
96"x78" oil on canvas 1875
-image courtesy Thomas Jefferson University

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by the Wal-Mart heiress Alice L. Walton and under construction in Bentonville, Arkansas, is trying to pry away another important painting from its longstanding home. Carol Vogel in the New York Times reports that Thomas Jefferson University - a medical school in Philadelphia - has decided to sell the work which was purchased for $200 by University alumni in 1878. The proposed sale price is $68 million and the painting would be shared between the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the not yet completed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Crystal Bridges' recent plunder of Asher B. Durand's "Kindred Spirits" from the New York Public Library set a poor precedent.

Asher B. Durand
"Kindred Spirits"
44"x36" oil on canvas 1849
formerly in the collection of the New York Public Library

Carol Vogel goes on to report that Thomas Jefferson University seems to be "mindful of potential objections from residents of Philadelphia, Eakins’s lifelong home,[and] has given local museums and government institutions 45 days to match the offer."

"Anne d’Harnoncourt, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said she would immediately explore the possibility, perhaps in tandem with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. “It’s a painting that really belongs in Philadelphia — his presence still resonates here,” she said of Eakins’s masterwork. “There may be a way we could band together to make it happen.”

I am in on this one and hope that the Philadelphia Museum will accept offers from around the country to help keep "The Gross Clinic" in Philadelphia.

Thomas Eakins
"Gross Clinic"
96"x78" oil on canvas 1875
-image courtesy Thomas Jefferson University

More at:
New York Times on the Gross Clinic

In Philadelphia they are aghast at the news-
"This is our cultural heritage. We cannot let it be bought.

If we sell it, we are selling Philadelphia's future. Would we allow the Liberty Bell to be bought? This is no different.

Philadelphia is the home of the first hospital, founded by no less than Ben Franklin. A tradition grew out of that, a tradition that is summarized by this painting. We have a rich history of medicine that will be plundered by the sale of this art."
-from Phillyville

And the alumni from Thomas Jefferson University are livid:
"Isn't this a little like selling your soul to the devil? Couldn't Jeff issue bonds in the usual fashion and go into debt like any respectable university?

Says Bob Barchi (University President), "We're not a museum. We're not in the business of art education" and in two sentences betrays his failing grade on his Two Cultures book report , a crushing ignorance of the centrality of art to the human experience, and spins Jefferson's expansion as an Eakins rejection redux.

Heroic myth writ large (Homer) or small (Rocky Balboa, Luke Skywalker) inspires great things in real life, just as Eakins painting of Gross has inspired countless artists, physicians and patients. It is arguably Philadelphia's David. But Philadelphia is not Florence, and the Jefferson Board no Medici."
Is Art Important to Medicine?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vote Tomorrow and Remember the Ghosts of Baghdad & New Orleans

Ghost of New Orleans
Gregg Chadwick
"Ghost of New Orleans"
48"X36" oil on linen 2006

We were in my studio Saturday night mourning the loss of our country to Karl Rove, George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. Enough is enough. Vote tomorrow and vote for a House and Senate of the future. Thomas L. Friedman said it well in the New York Times:

"Everyone says that Karl Rove is a genius. Yeah, right. So are cigarette companies. They get you to buy cigarettes even though we know they cause cancer. That is the kind of genius Karl Rove is. He is not a man who has designed a strategy to reunite our country around an agenda of renewal for the 21st century -- to bring out the best in us. His "genius" is taking some irrelevant aside by John Kerry and twisting it to bring out the worst in us, so you will ignore the mess that the Bush team has visited on this country.

And Karl Rove has succeeded at that in the past because he was sure that he could sell just enough Bush cigarettes, even though people knew they caused cancer. Please, please, for our country's health, prove him wrong this time.

Let Karl know that you're not stupid. Let him know that you know that the most patriotic thing to do in this election is to vote against an administration that has -- through sheer incompetence -- brought us to a point in Iraq that was not inevitable but is now unwinnable.

Let Karl know that you think this is a critical election, because you know as a citizen that if the Bush team can behave with the level of deadly incompetence it has exhibited in Iraq -- and then get away with it by holding on to the House and the Senate -- it means our country has become a banana republic. It means our democracy is in tatters because it is so gerrymandered, so polluted by money, and so divided by professional political hacks that we can no longer hold the ruling party to account.

It means we're as stupid as Karl thinks we are.

I, for one, don't think we're that stupid. On Tuesday, November 7th we'll see."

-by Thomas L. Friedman
New York Times, November 3, 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Angel of History

Gregg Chadwick
"The Angel of History"
28.5" x 73" sumi and oil on screen 2006

"This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward."
- Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History," IX

More at:

Monday, October 09, 2006

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art: New Building, New Exhibit

Darren Waterston
Interior (Green), 2001

The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (SJICA) has moved into its own building just down the block on South First Street from its former site. Recently, SJICA's director Cathy Kimball , gave me a tour of the former warehouse. SJICA is in the model of a European Kunsthaus, a space dedicated to museum worthy exhibitions but without a permanent collection of its own.

Gregg Chadwick
Buddha of the Future (In Memory of Uri Grossman), 2006

The current exhibition, art destined for SJICA's 26th Annual Fall Auction, provides an overview of contemporary art practice in the Bay Area and beyond. Including works by Darren Waterston, Binh Danh, Judy Dater, Naomie Kremer, Gustavo Ramos Rivera, Robin McCloskey, Gregg Chadwick, Bruce Conner, Kim Frohsin, Manuel Neri, Hung Liu, Michael Kenna, Jamie Brunson, Kyoko Fischer, Enrique Chagoya and others - the exhibit is visually and intellectually astute. The group show opened on October 6th and runs until the auction at SJICA on Saturday, October 28th.

Robin McCloskey
Baylands, 2005

SJICA's new building is located at 560 South First Street in San Jose’s growing SoFA arts district. The large (7,500 sq ft) space will soon be completely renovated. Director Cathy Kimball, SJICA'S staff, and the Institute's board have a large and compelling vision for the place of the arts in San Jose.

Binh Danh
Persimmon Eclipse, 2003

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art's 26th Annual Fall Auction:

Exhibition (Free Admission):
October 6 - October 28, 2006

Auction (Tickets required):
Saturday, October 28
Doors open at 6:00pm;
auction begins promptly at 7:00pm

Tickets are $35 for ICA Members/$45 for non-members
(20% discount on tickets purchased before October 28.)
Call 408-283-8155 for tickets.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Medical Consequences Of The Iraq War: Health Challenges Beyond The Battlefield

photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon L.Roach USMC

The Medical Consequences Of The Iraq War: Health Challenges Beyond The Battlefield

A Symposium To Present The Issues Behind the Headlines

WHAT: Physicians for Social Responsibility, along with UCLA Extension and UCLA, School of Public Health, will hold a one-day symposium on the medical consequences of the war in Iraq.

WHY: Health effects of the war have been grossly underreported. According to public health studies, three years of war has resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 Iraqi civilians. To date, 2,685 American soldiers have been killed with 19,945 soldiers wounded. US and Iraqi war soldiers are being diagnosed with mental disease in shockingly high numbers – portending an avalanche in veteran mental health needs in the coming years. Ten authoritative physicians and social scientists will present their findings and testimonies, including:

Dahlia Wasfi, MD The War in Iraq: A First Hand Account
Richard Garfield Dr.PH Mortality and Morbidity in Iraq
Gene Bolles MD Treating American Soldiers: A Frontline Account
John Pastore MD Physician Ethics and War
Gregg Bloche MD Physician involvement in Torture: Ethical and Legal Issues
Helena Young, PhD Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in American Troops
Harriet Zeiner, PhD Traumatic Brain Injury
Nafisa Abdullah-Huf MD The Medical Situation for the Afghan People
Congressman Bob Filner Healing America’s Soldiers in the Coming Decades

WHEN: Saturday, October 21, 2006
9am - 5:30pm

WHERE: UCLA Campus, Grand Ballroom, Ackerman Hall

COST: $25 – Open To The Public, Wheelchair Accessible
Register on line: uclaextension or call: (310) 825 9971
Course Registration Number: S3972U

The Scream and Madonna On View Before Restoration at Munch Museum

From September 27th to October 1st at the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, the newly returned paintings "The Scream" and "Madonna" will be exhibited before restoration. Both paintings will be laid out flat in glass display cases like aenesthesized patients bearing scars from their saga of theft and return.

More at:
Munch Museum

Saturday, September 16, 2006

An Elephant is Not a Wall

Tai, a 38 year old Indian elephant gets painted for Banksy's exhibition in Los Angeles
(Photo by Marissa Roth for The New York Times)

Banksy, the mischievous, witty and at times sophomoric intervention artist, has picked a thirty-eight year old Indian elephant named Tai to intervene upon. At his current and very brief Los Angeles exhibition, it opened on Thursday and closes on Sunday, Banksy has created a literal depiction of the metaphor – “There is an elephant in the room and nobody talks about it.” It seems that moving from public spaces to private elephants has created a justified uproar in Los Angeles: "I think it sends a very wrong message that abusing animals is not only OK, it's an art form," said Ed Boks, general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services, to the Los Angeles Times. "We find it no longer acceptable to dye baby chicks at Easter, but it's OK to dye an elephant?"

It seems only fitting that the anonymous Banksy out his identity in a tit for tat body painting session with Vitaly Komar & Alex Melamid and the painting elephants of Northern Thailand and Bali - Banksy as blank canvas for the painting elephants.

Komar & Melamid's Elephant Project. Could Banksy be next?

More at:
Elephants That Paint

New York Times on Banksy

Los Angeles Times on Banksy and Tai

Tai at Banksy's Show
(Béatrice de Géa / LAT)

An earlier artistic intervention by Banksy in Los Angeles proved to be much more succesful in intent and final outcome:

Monday, September 11, 2006


My current paintings are filtered through my experience of September 11th, 2001. I was visiting my family in Thailand and had spent the morning in Chiang Mai following the saffron robed monks on their small morning pilgrimages. I hopped a flight for Bangkok and while waiting for a connecting flight to San Francisco I watched in horror as the planes hit the World Trade Center. On my return to the U.S. later that week I began to paint Buddhist monks, privately at first - as a form of meditation. Only later did I grasp the dharmic sense of responsibility inherit in this new body of work. I needed to paint these paintings. And I found that the audience I had developed over the years felt the need to see them also. They have given me their trust that I will create paintings that speak of our times but also provide clues to a future path away from the darkness.

More from:

Edward Winkleman

Franklin Einspruch

Moby and NY'ers tell GW to go home

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Gregg Chadwick
Screen Memories (Fin de Cinema)
60"x60" oil on linen 2002

A new poem by Kent Chadwick about the experience of leaving a theater after watching a film:


the dream, the dark left behind,
done sipping our coke, done suckling on
the Big Nipple of Hollywood, christened
so by Bertolucci at the Oscars,
the credits rolling as the lights come up,
stumbling from our shared, climactic dream,
fantasy experienced in common,
back to the foyer of reality,
the cacophony of unscripted sound,
shock of daylight after the matinee,
the third act’s satisfaction rippling
within us, but lessening so quickly
that we try to prolong it conversing:
What have we learned? What truth? What lies?
We learn lies too: pseudo-ideas
that bond with what we think we know
but catalyze wrong conclusions.
The lies in question here are facts
refined beyond reality,
simplified so as to produce
more powerful pure emotion
(while complexity fosters
more nuanced and reflective thought).
The troika of Hollywood lies:
First—that violence is redemptive—
that just enough judicious force
can reform the schoolyard bully,
clean up Dodge City, save the Bronx.
Second—that love is just romance—
that the romantic spark is love’s
one true and only kindling,
that sex is its one fulfillment
and passion its signature sign.
Third—that the hero always wins
and gets just what he wants—
that happy endings are the rule,
that every problem can be solved
and in time for the curtain call.
We leave accepting the unreal,
not doubting the impossible,
more prone to choose expedience,
less willing to show forbearance,
primed to demand happiness now.

Yet poetry, like movies, lies.
For that Plato and Mohammed
elected to banish this art.
There are lies we choose to live by—
fiction is our euphemism,
poetry their celebration—
humor, hope, imagination,
artifices over the void
contra despair, versus ennui.
The lies of classic tragedy
to those of sentimental soaps
and Hollywood’s cheap romances
fulfill a basic human need:
Aristotle’s art catharsis.
Two types of lies to consider:
imagined facts
subverted facts.
The arts create much neater worlds,
places our minds can understand,
invent untruths, imagine facts,
things that never have been nor will.
But the artist and audience
agree they’re false. The artist does
not conceal her art nor does she
attempt to delude the viewer.
Instead we play an elaborate
game where the artist tries to win
a suspension of disbelief,
a surrender of our careful
guard against both lies and liars
with bold strokes and rich verities.
And the frisson of art is when
the artist-magician defeats
our disbelief and seduces
us into a private world where
magic happens regularly.
These imagined facts are tall tale
bones for our imagination
to gnaw on down to the marrow.

Not so lies of subverted facts.
These violate reality
to make things easy, to make things
fit within the artificial
system of a Pollyanna,
huckster, conman, true believer,
propagandist, or demagogue.
The worst subverted fact is “they”—
smooth, simple, and innocuous,
insidious as a virus.
“They:” the demonized other crowned
responsible for all our ills.
“They” fills our rhetoric, our news,
our elections, and our movies.
Ungrammatical Pogo hints
at the antidote: We have met
the enemy, and they is us.

Though, like cartoons, films teach truths too.
What have we learned? Signs and wonders
abound: we have new eyes and ears;
we have slipped inside another,
seen from a different angle
how the world alternately feels,
practiced cheering for a stranger.
Scenes have been framed and staged for us
of incomparable beauty
that thrill our sense of life’s glory.
We have been given life lessons
in how to kiss and how to fight,
how to suffer and how to dance,
how to laugh at our foolishness.
Again we’ve been reminded how
easily we break into song.

The theme song returns to mind and we want
to hum and hold onto its bright tune as
the double doors push us back outside changed
from audience to individuals,
our feelings pitched, ideas stirred, images
swirling then forming into memory
and new stories settling in our souls.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Echoes of Munch's Scream

The Norwegian police are reporting that Munch's paintings - "Scream" and "Madonna" , stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo in 2004, have been recovered. Munch's "Scream" and his numerous variations in different media have inspired a host of references, homages and parodies. The Munch Museum, before the theft, hosted an exhibition of contemporary works influenced by Munch's proto-existential painting.

Gilbert & George
121 x 100cm photomontage 1983

The museum provides a concise description of "Scream's" genesis:

"In his writings, Munch connects "Scream" (1893) with a specific event - a walk with some friends from a vantage point high up on Ekeberg at sunset. Munch paints the subjective experience of "the scream in nature" as an expression of universal angst rooted in existential uncertainty. Mankind is on the threshold of a new and frightening century, abandoned by God, whom Nietzsche had declared dead in 1872. Through its deeply expressive power this picture has attained the status of icon in the history of art. The universal angst of the age and the personal angst of the individual here reach their apogee. But "Scream" also expresses the universal struggles in life and what it is to be human."

Edvard Munch
84 x 67cm oil, tempera and pastel on cardboard 1893

The Munch Museum provides a history
of the newly recovered paintings on it's website:

Edvard Munch
oil on canvas 1894

"Scream" and "Madonna" in the Munch Museum collection were in the artist's possession when he died in 1944, and part of his bequest to the City of Oslo.

"Scream" in the Munch Museum is one of two painted versions of the image. The other is to be found in the National Gallery, Oslo. The National Gallery version is signed and dated 1893, and many scholars believe this to be the first one. Both versions are painted on cardboard, and Munch has also sketched the image on the reverse side of the National Gallery version. "Scream" - one of the two versions - was first exhibited at Unter den Linden in Berlin in December 1893. In 1895 an important version of the image was produced as a lithograph. There exist two pastels of the image, one belonging to the Munch Museum, the other privately owned. There are also a few sketches related to "Scream" on a sheet of paper in the Munch Museum collection

A text from Munch's diary in 1892 relates to "Scream":

I was walking along a path with two friends
the sun was setting
I felt a breath of melancholy
Suddenly the sky turned blood-red
I stopped and leant against the railing,
deathly tired
looking out across flaming clouds that hung
like - blood and a sword over the
deep blue fjord and town
My friends walked on -
I stood there trembling with anxiety
And I felt a great, infinite scream pass
through nature.

The Munch Museum's "Madonna" is painted on canvas. There are four additional painted versions of the image. The National Gallery Oslo and the Hamburger Kunsthalle each have one, while two are in private collections. The Munch Museum "Madonna" is dated 1893-94. In 1895 Munch made a lithographic version of "Madonna", with a decorative frame depicting spermatozoa and an embryo. Several poetic texts related to Madonna underscore the intimate relationship between love and death:

...Now life is shaking hands with death
The chain that binds together the thousand generations
of dead with the thousand generations yet to be born
has been tied...

"In "Scream", humanity's desperation and angst is emphasised by the strikingly harsh colours and the restless, agitated lines of the background. The characteristic wavy brushstrokes that Munch introduces in the 1890s are related to the ornamental painting of symbolism and art nouveau. Yet by contrast with their carefully calculated decorative effects, Munch's brushwork is spontaneous and unpolished, becoming a direct physical expression of the artist's inner turmoil. At the same time, this dynamic approach is an important part of Munch's portrayal of himself as the ostracised, mentally unstable genius."

Child's painting made after the theft of "Scream" and "Madonna" in 2004.

For those with children in Norway the museum holds an Edvard Munch Children's Workshop for kids, aged 5 to 8, once a month and on special occasions. The students learn about Edvard Munch as an artist, his life story and spend time looking at and asking questions about the Munch paintings in the museum. Afterwards they work on their own paintings in the children’s workshop. The workshops are held in Norwegian.

I wonder if the Norwegian artist Laila Carlsen was able to take part as a child?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An Intimate Grammar

An Intimate Grammar
Gregg Chadwick
"An Intimate Grammar"
(In Memory of Uri Grossman)
30"x24" oil on linen 2006

I paint Buddhas when the world seems to call for them. As a father I can barely begin to understand the loss of a son. The death of David Grossman's son Uri during the recent fighting between Hezbollah and the Israeli Army in Lebanon clearly shows the costs of war. I paint Buddhas in the hope that courageous men like the writer David Grossman will continue to seek peace through dialogue and understanding. It is much more difficult to sit down at a negotiating table and hammer out differences than it is to lob missiles over the border or to drop bombs in retaliation. A world without prejudice, brutality or war is a world which I wish to leave for my son. The goal seems naive or laughable to some but the non-violence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. bore great fruit.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

War Hits Home for Israeli Novelist David Grossman

Uri Grossman
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The New York Times reports that Uri Grossman - "the son of Israeli novelist and peace activist David Grossman has been killed in southern Lebanon ... just days after the author urged the government to end the war with Hezbollah guerrillas."

David Grossman
Photo: Shai Rosenzweig

Uri Grossman's family released a statement:

"Uri Grossman was born on August 27, 1985. He was supposed to celebrate his 21st birthday in two weeks. Uri studied at the experimental school in Jerusalem. He reached the armored corps and fulfilled his aspiration to be a tank commander. He was about to be released (from the army) in November, travel the world, and then study theater. Friday evening he spoke, from Lebanon, with his parents and sister. He was glad that a decision on a ceasefire was taken. Uri promised that he will be eating the next Shabbat dinner at home. Uri, son to David and Michal and brother to Yonatan and Ruthie, had a fabulous sense of humor and a big soul filled with life and emotion."

The Jerusalem Post's account:

"On Sunday, the war brought disaster home to Grossman when his son Uri, a 20-year-old staff-sergeant, was killed by an anti-tank missile that hit his tank. The younger Grossman was taking part in a major military offensive in the southern Lebanon village of Hirbat Kasif, aimed at sweeping the area clear of Hizbullah fighters ahead of Monday's expected cease-fire. Two other soldiers and an officer were killed in the same incident."

David Grossman, the author of such internationally recognized novels as "Someone to Run With", "The Yellow Wind" and "The Zig-Zag Kid", has long been an outspoken left-wing activist. In his 2003 book "Death as a Way of Life", Grossman presented a sobered but still resiliently liberal view of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In early 2005, he said at a literary fair: "Everyone knows that the conflict will end. The writing has been on the wall for a number of years. This is our chance to write history, and not be victims of it."

Of Israel's struggle to live in peace, he said, "We hope to become a story like any other story. But for God's sake, not a larger-than-life story, just a story of life."

The New York Times continues, David Grossman, whose novels and political essays have been translated into 20 languages, is an outspoken advocate of conciliation with the Arabs and of ending Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

But, like most Israelis, David Grossman supported Israel's retaliation when Hezbollah fighters attacked an army patrol inside Israel on July 12 and unleashed a barrage of rockets on civilians in the north.

By Thursday, David Grossman, said the war had gone on long enough.

The turning point came the previous day when the government approved a plan to launch an 11th-hour campaign to inflict a devastating blow to the guerrillas.

In a joint news conference with fellow novelists Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, Grossman denounced the plan as dangerous and counterproductive.

''Out of concern for the future of Israel and our place here, the fighting should be stopped now, to give a chance to negotiations,''
David Grossman said.

Grossman, an Israeli-born son of a refugee from Nazi Europe, urged Israel to accept a proposal by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora -- which later formed the core of the U.N. resolution for ending the conflict -- calling for the deployment of Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon with the help of an international force that would end Hezbollah's virtual control over the area.

''This solution is the victory that Israel wanted,'' Grossman said. He warned that stepping up the offensive could trigger the collapse of Saniora's government and the strengthening of Hezbollah -- the very force Israel set out to destroy.

''It's still possible to prevent it,'' Grossman said. ''This is the last moment.''

David Grossman from his 2003 collection of essays, "Death as a Way of Life", on the ten years since the Oslo Accords:

"But who can hope for love between nations? Who really loves anyone in this world? (Of course, I'm referring not to people but to nations.) Do the English love the French? Do the Germans love the Russians? Perhaps we should even ask: Do the West Germans and East Germans love each other?

"Interests" is the key word, and it is the guarantee that the agreement will work. The two peoples have signed on to the agreement because they understand that they have no other choice. After decades of mutual bloodletting, they have come to terms with the idea that if they do not live side by side they will perish together, in a maelstrom that will engulf the entire region. It is existential interest that pushed these two reluctant peoples into each other's arms. The United States and Japan, and the Europeans led by Germany, now have to turn peace into a practical and enticing option for both sides. A flourishing economy, new jobs, a sense of freedom, reinforcement of everything in life that was damaged or paralyzed during the years of occupation and Intifada-all these can significantly strengthen those Palestinians who want peace. Similarly, the right-wing extremists in Israel will have difficulty arguing with a concrete improvement in the economy, in the quality of life, in the sense of security. The fundamentalists of Hamas will fight a war of despair and no quarter. They will try to create a nightmare atmosphere. Only a robust creative reality, full of life and hope, will succeed in withstanding them. We need to begin creating that reality now, immediately.

Neither romantic love, then, nor a high wall. I dream of two countries separated by a distinct border. A border that will make clear to each state the space in which it exists as a political entity, as a national identity. If there's a border, there is an identity. There is a new living reality in which this identity can bleed out the poison of illusions and begin to heal.

One more important thing: This is a condition in which-years from now-the two sides will be able to give themselves a new kind of definition-not one contrasted with an enemy, but one that turns inward. One dependent not on the fear that they might be destroyed but instead on the natural development of a nation, on its system of values and the various facets of its character. This is a decisive change. For years, both sides have suspended the internal dialogue that each must have. The state of continual conflict was a reason and an excuse for not addressing their fundamental, authentic problems, a reason for just trying to survive one more violent conflagration. I can definitely see that such a new process of defining ourselves, the Israelis, will bring about tremors and changes. It will require a painful assessment of our definition of ourselves today in relation to our Jewish heritage. It will force us to confront our complicated history anew, and to consider the possibility of choosing a new way of relating to the world outside us.

If peace is established between us and all the Arab countries, we will also be able, finally, to internalize the fact that we are part of the Middle East. We will comprehend that our presence here is not the result of some bureaucratic-geographical error, but rather that this is the place in which our lives will henceforth be conducted, and it would be well for us to open ourselves to the world and to the culture of our neighbors. Clearly, such a step can be taken only if we have partners, if the Arab countries no longer view Israel as "a cancerous growth of imperialism" (as Israel has been termed on many an occasion in the Arab press) but rather as an integral, stimulating, and vital part of the Middle East.

If we can reach and live with this vision of the end of days, we Israelis may well permit ourselves-after years of instinctive self-denial-to believe that we have a future. That we may dare to believe that we will finally have continuity and prospects. That death will not cast its shadow on everything in our lives. Perhaps we will be able to free ourselves from that sense of doom that lies deep down in our collective consciousnesses-that, for us, life is only latent death.

This is the true meaning of self-determination. I have always believed that when Israel agrees to grant this right to the Palestinians, it will also win it for itself. Now the moment has come for the Israelis, for the Palestinians, and for the other sane nations in the region. Here it is now: the Future."

Günter Grass Comes Clean

"Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum)"
Günter Grass
(Grass' first novel -''The Tin Drum''- is a magnificent attempt to portray the horror and stupidity of the Nazi years.)

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German Nobel Laureate Günter Grass admits that, between 1944-45, he was a member of Hitler's Weapons SS. Günter Grass says the shame of his youthful naivety has long haunted him and that it will now be his "Scarlet Letter."

Der Spiegel reports that Ralph Giordano, a leading German-Jewish writer, said he would not condemn Grass and praised his belated confession:

"It's good what Günter Grass has now done,'' Giordano said. ''What's worse than making a mistake is not coming to terms with it. His example also shows how seducible young people can be.''

One of the most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany, the SS played a key role in the Holocaust, operating the death camps in which millions died. But by the war's end when Grass was inducted, most were drafted and many under 18.

Der Spiegel reports :

" At first, says Grass, he saw the Weapons SS as an elite unit, and not as something "repulsive." It wasn't until later that he became plagued by feelings of guilt. "For me, the whole thing was always tied to this question: Could you have realized what was going one at the time?"

"Grass says he has always known that the day would come when he would have to talk about this part of his past. Did he miss the right opportunity to discuss his SS membership? "I don't know," says the author, artist and poet. "It's certainly the case that I believed what I did as a writer was enough. After all, I went through my learning process and reached my own conclusions. But there was still this lingering blemish."

"Ich bin dabei gewesen"
Günter Grass

"More amusing than sensational is Grass's recollection of a boy named Joseph, with whom he spent time in a prisoner-of-war camp. When asked whether this 17-year-old was in fact, Joseph Ratzinger, the man who became Pope Benedict XVI, Grass says: "He became my friend and we played dice together. I had managed to smuggle my dice shaker into the camp. I wanted to be an artist and he was interested in a career in the church. He seemed a little shy, but he was a nice guy."

"Like Grass, Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was in fact imprisoned at Germany's Bad Aibling camp. Whether the Vatican will comment on Grass's recollections remains to be seen."

After serving in World War II, Grass ended up in Berlin, where he studied art.

Having trained as an artist, Mr. Grass began his career with a book of poems illustrated by his own drawings. Grass became well known as an author and a biting social critic but has continued to produce visual art over the years.

Vivien Raynor in an article from the New York Times published on March 28, 1982 reviews Grass' lithographs: " The visions of the artist, which are inextricable from those of the writer, have roots that go much deeper than the 20th century. The prints, with their implications of dazzling white light, their sinuous but firm lines and their textures that range from rich black hatching to a delicate gray stipple worthy of Aubrey Beardsley, are strange in the way that the works of Arnold Bocklin, Otto Runge and Max Klinger are strange."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

"Yet political turmoil in Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and beyond only underlines the challenge of using the past to illuminate the present. Put differently, can 400 carefully chosen objects, some dating to the 11th century, provide us with any fresh insight into what is happening in the Middle East today?"
-Alan Riding in the New York Times

The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London is a long overdue re-installation of the Islamic collection at the V&A. Students and instructors at the nearby Royal College of Art often stop by the V&A for lunch. Maybe this collection of beautiful and politically charged artwork will inspire the artists of London and beyond to delve deeply into the connections and ideas found in these objects rather than repeat the tired diatribe coming from the talking heads in the Middle East, Europe and America.

The Ardabil Carpet (detail), Iran
Width 553.5 cm x length 1051.5 cm
Hand knotted woollen pile, on silk warp and weft; asymmetrical knot, open to the left; 304 knots per sq. in
Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Alan Riding in the New York Times

Victoria & Albert Museum

Museum With No Frontiers: Discover Islamic Art

The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Monday, August 07, 2006

Picture Kill

A Picture Kill notice has been sent out by the by the Reuters News Service and Beirut based freelance photographer Adnan Hajj has been dropped by the agency for Photoshopping news photographs of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.

The Reuters Website reports that they received "more than 2,000 reader e-mails on this issue over the weekend." The agency issued a kill on the photo in question:

Doctored Photo of Beirut by Adnan Hajj

and sent out an unaltered version:

Unaltered Photo of Beirut by Adnan Hajj

Reuters also reports that they have "withdrawn all photographs taken by the Beirut-based freelancer after establishing that he had altered two images since the start of the conflict between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah group."

"There is no graver breach of Reuters standards for our photographers than the deliberate manipulation of an image", said Tom Szlukovenyi, Reuters Global Picture Editor. "Reuters has zero tolerance for any doctoring of pictures and constantly reminds its photographers, both staff and freelance, of this strict and unalterable policy".

"Reuters terminated its relationship with Hajj on Sunday after a review of a photograph he had taken of the aftermath of an Israeli air strike on suburban Beirut the previous day found it had been manipulated using Photoshop software to show more and darker smoke rising from buildings.

An immediate enquiry began into Hajj’s other work. It found on Monday that a second photograph, of an Israeli F-16 fighter over Nabatiyeh, southern Lebanon and dated Aug 2, had been doctored to increase the number of flares dropped by the plane from one to three. The caption also misidentified the objects as missiles rather than flares, which warplanes release as a defensive measure." Here is that photo:

Doctored Photo Of Israeli F-16 over Lebanon by Adnan Hajj

"Manipulating photographs in this way is entirely unacceptable and contrary to all the principles consistently held by Reuters throughout its long and distinguished history. It undermines not only our reputation but also the good name of all our photographers," said David Schlesinger, the Reuters Global Managing Editor.

Szlukovenyi said the mere fact that Hajj had altered two of his photographs meant none of his work for Reuters could be trusted either by the news service or its users.

"This doesn’t mean that every one of his 920 photographs in our database was altered. We know that not to be the case from the majority of images we have looked at so far but we need to act swiftly and in a precautionary manner," Szlukovenyi said.

The two altered photographs were among 43 that Hajj had filed directly to the Global Pictures Desk since the start of the conflict on July 12 rather than through an editor in Beirut, as was the case with the great majority of his images.
Hajj worked for Reuters as a non-staff contributing photographer from 1993 until 2003 and again since April 2005."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Does Gorky Make You Smarter?

Arshile Gorky
"The Artist and His Mother"
1926-36 oil on canvas 60 x 50 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Gift of Julien Levy for Maro and Natasha Gorky in memory of their father
© 2000 Estate of Arshile Gorky/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Today's New York Times reports that a new study by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum suggests that "learning about paintings and sculpture helps children become better students in other areas." The study cites "improvements in a range of literacy skills among students who took part in a program in which the Guggenheim sends artists into schools. The study, now in its second year, interviewed hundreds of New York City third graders, some of whom had participated in the Guggenheim program, called Learning Through Art, and others who did not."

"The study found that students in the program performed better in six categories of literacy and critical thinking skills — including thorough description, hypothesizing and reasoning — than did students who were not in the program. The children were assessed as they discussed a passage in a children’s book, Cynthia Kadohata’s “Kira-Kira,” and a painting by Arshile Gorky, “The Artist and His Mother.”

The Whitney Museum describes "The Artist and His Mother" as "arguably Gorky's masterpiece." Michael FitzGerald in the Whitney's Archive Research Project on Gorky goes on to explain that the "painting is based on a photograph of the young Gorky and his mother, taken in 1912, before the Turkish massacre of Armenians during World War I, when Gorky, his mother, and his sister were sent on a death march. His mother never recovered her health; she died in 1919 and the fifteen-year-old Gorky emigrated to America."

The publisher summarizes Cynthia Kadohata’s “Kira-Kira" :
"Kira-kira" is Japanese for glittering or shining. Glittering. That's how Katie Takeshima's sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people's eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it's Lynn who explains to her why people stop them on the street to stare. And it's Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering — kira-kira — in the future."

Both Gorky's painting and Kadohata's novel portray the world from a child's eye and give voice to stories of growing up in a difficult and at times brutal world. It makes sense that diving into discussions of these artworks would help children open up intellectually and provide them with a sense of mastery. All too often, the voices, needs, and stories of children are hidden or forcibly repressed.

"While it is unknown exactly how learning about art helps literacy skill, the hypothesis is that the use of both talking about art and using inquiry to help students tease apart the meaning of paintings helps them learn how to tease apart the meanings of texts, too. They apply those skills to reading.”
- Johanna Jones, a senior associate with Randi Korn and Associates, a museum research company conducting the study over three years with a $640,000 grant from the federal Department of Education.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Twitchell Files Claim Against Labor Department Over Loss of Ruscha Mural

From the Los Angeles Times:

"On Thursday, attorneys representing artist Kent Twitchell filed a claim against the U.S. Department of Labor in connection with Twitchell's large-scale mural "Ed Ruscha Monument" — a six-story portrait of fellow artist Ruscha on a building owned by the federal agency — being painted over in early June. Twitchell said he received no notice, as required by law, that the paint-over would take place."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Giant Clams Invade the Departure Lounge at SFO

Underwater Display: Terminal 1
San Francisco International Airport

Summer - Lots of traveling in the heat and lots of time in airport departure lounges. The San Francisco International Airport has an interesting program of curated exhibitions. Terminal 1's current display concerns the sea -
"Aquarium: Underwater Planet"

The exhibition is presented in conjunction with the Steinhart Aquarium from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. (All the current exhibits at SFO are listed at

Specimens gathered long ago float in amber colored jars bringing to mind Doc Ricketts' Lab in Monterey or even the mutated human/sea creatures who serve Davy Jones and torment Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest."

I found A O Scott's review of the reviewers-"Avast, Me Critics!"- in the New York Times to be an entertaining take on the role of critics in contemporary American society:

"Are we out of touch with the audience? Why do we go sniffing after art where everyone else is looking for fun, and spoiling everybody’s fun when it doesn’t live up to our notion or art? What gives us the right to yell “bomb” outside a crowded theater? ... Online, everyone is a critic, which is as it should be: professional prerogatives aside, a critic is really just anyone who thinks out loud about something he or she cares about, and gets into arguments with fellow enthusiasts."

Organist at “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest"
El Capitan Theater, Hollywood

Giant Clam: Terminal 1
San Francisco International Airport

Friday, June 23, 2006

Liquid Jelly: Installing Matthew Barney at SFMOMA

Matthew Barney sweeps up at SFMOMA

There is an amusing article in today's San Francisco Chronicle about the installation of Matthew Barney's "Drawing Restraint" exhibition at SFMOMA- Petroleum Jelly, Barney dressed as Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Tennessee trucker Jim McKinney, future Bjork sightings. This exhibit, which opens today, is going to be fun.

Matthew Barney's "Drawing Restraint" Exhibition has its own comment space on the web: "Drawing Restraint:What's Your Opinion?"

Trucker Jim McKinney with coffeee and pastry watches his tankload of petroleum jelly ooze forth at SFMOMA

Matthew Barney Podcast:

"Drawing Restraint:Podcast"

Podcaster at SFMOMA'S Chuck Close Exhibition