Friday, February 25, 2011

Community Dialogues

Lou Dematteis, Justicia ¡Ya!, photograph, 2003
Human Banners

Projecting back a pressing cry for justice and awareness, the photography of Lou Dematteis gives voice to individuals at the grass-roots level of the Amazon. The image Justicia ¡Ya! is part of a series Dematteis calls Human Banners, where he utilizes people or objects to communicate succinct messages on socio-ecological issues. Justicia ¡Ya! involves indigenous and other community members in Ecuador supporting a legal case against Texaco-Chevron for its negligent disposal of toxic wastes.

La Raza Galería Posada hosted an evening with Lou Dematteis to share his work as a photojournalist and the larger effort that seeks restitution. Dematteis opened with the thirty minute documentary Justicia Now which traces developments of legal action along with documentation and testimonies of high cancer rates and escalating environmental losses. The film shows Ecuador's northern section of the Amazon marked with gaping scars from drilling and disposal, demanding immediate protection of the nation's most fertile zones. Amongst the vast devastation, hope resounds with the promising actions on behalf of the government and local groups that propose to save the Amazon--not only as a local imperative but also as a global concern.

The evening with Lou Demetteis opened a dialogue with attendants that offered greater awareness of pending issues that are now exacerbated with the recent BP spill in the Gulf. Moreover, urban exploitation of natural resources forces the continued culture clash with indigenous communities. The image of Justicia ¡Ya! is a direct open call from Ecuadorian soil for ecological solidarity to the global community.

The Inferno

Who said painting is dead? The quote is profusely attributed to nineteenth century painter Paul Delaroche who proclaimed this conclusion upon the advent of the Daguerrotype. Photographic accuracy of the objective world was no longer the burden of skilled painters. However, Gottfried Helnwein renders his canvases with intense veracity, as though to lose oneself in the painting in order to escape the horrors it portrays.

Gottfried Helnwein, Murmur of the Innocents,
mixed media on canvas, 2010
Murmur of the Innocents is the solitary figure of a prepubescent girl laying on her back, transfixed. Her eyes tear as she gasps for air in her paralyzed state of shock. Omitted from this image is the opening of the jacket as it continues to split below the abdomen. The scene suggests the remnants of rape, making the viewer confront its implications. For Helnwein, there was an innocence lost growing up in post-war Austria after its complicity with Nazi Germany. The image of a young girl is recast into an icon of innocence that is tortured in an adult constructed inferno. Helnwein unveils the abject of humanity, reminding us of its pitfalls.

Murmur of the Innocents is part of the exhibition Inferno of the Innocents showing at the Crocker Art Museum, which will feature a screening of the documentary The Silence of Innocence on March 3rdThe film will be followed by a panel discussion with local art professionals: Technocultural Studies Professor Jesse Drew at UCD, Artist Iana Frisby, Art History Professor Elaine O'Brien at CSUS. This opportunity will offer viewers a chance to participate in an open dialogue of Helnwein's work.

The peculiar engagement of collecting

Another open forum presented itself with the screening of Herb and Dorothy at the Crest Theatre; a film on the curious couple from limited means that were able to amass an extensive art collection that include prominent artists of the second half of the last century. The viewing was a collaboration between the Verge Center for the Arts and the Crest to present films pertinent to the art community. Artist Liv Moe lead the panel discussion with art professionals: Nelson Gallery Director Renny Pritikin at UCD, Artist Stephen Kaltenbach, Art Professor Annabeth Rosen at UCD.

The film demonstrated the comprehensiveness of the collection, while highlighting the love story that made it possible. Interestingly, the discussion that followed helped distinguish more concrete realities underneath the romanticized interpretation. Herb and Dorothy Vogle cultivated for themselves intimate relationships within the network of New York galleries and artists--relationships that were not always clearly defined. The vast majority of the collection are works on paper, complex studies, and a few fully realized works. The couple had gathered over 4,ooo objects in their holdings, and only a fraction of the collection was discussed in the film. This is consistent with general practices of any repository. Works of distinguished and popular merit receive the most exposure, perpetuating positions of what is and is not displayed.The exceptional story shows how two unexpected individuals challenged the norms within the complex art world. However, the manner in which the Vogels engulfed themselves in their collecting moved dangerously into the realm of accumulation.