October 20, 2017

Hundreds of Cultural Figures Defend Right to Artistic Freedom in Brazil

Protesters demonstrating outside of the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art in Brazil.

Hundreds of arts professionals have signed an open letter published Thursday, October 19, in protest of the “wave of hate, intolerance, and violence against free expression” in Brazil. In recent months, conservatives have been waging a war against cultural institutions by trying to censor and close down exhibitions, attacking museum staff members and visitors, and using social media to promote fake news and harass people who disagree with them.

The letter condemns the actions of members of right-wing groups, religious sects, and several politicians and civil servants responsible for the onslaught. “These arrogant fundamentalists refuse to give artistic works a more attentive reading, and go witch-hunting for signs of indecency, pornography and heresy,” it reads. “There is no questioning or intellectual debate, only violence and intolerance.”

The document, which as of today has more than one thousand signatures, was written in response to a series of events that occurred over the course of this year. It specifically cites the Santander Cultural Center’s decision to end its “Queermuseu” exhibition early following allegations of pedophilia; the outcry over a nude performance that led to a petition calling for the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo to close; and a rally against the works of Pedro Moraleida at the Palace of Arts in Belo Horizonte.

It also claims that artistic creativity has been threatened since 2010, when opposition began to build against the newly elected president Dilma Rousseff, who was ousted in 2016, and Brazil’s third edition of its National Plan for Human Rights, which includes extended protections for women and the LGBTQ community. According to the 342 Artes movement, a group fighting to preserve Brazilians’ right to freedom of expression, arts institutions are being targeted because they’ve been advocating for such groups.

In conclusion, the letter urges people to mobilize in order to “defend and deepen the rights to an environment of free circulation of ideas, and denounce those who work to destroy democracy in Brazil.”

The day the letter was published, it was read aloud to the National Congress by Workers’ Party member Paulo Teixeira, as well as at the opening of the exhibition “Histories of Sexuality” at the Museu du Arte de São Paulo, which recently caved to pressure from conservatives and set an age limit of eighteen and older for admission to the show. It was also sent to several politicians and circulated through e-mail and the messaging service What’s App. Artist Renata Lucas told Lauren Cavalli of artforum.com that these attacks must end and called the attempts to censor the arts as “unacceptable and an imminent threat to democracy.”

Among the signatories of the letter are Clarissa Diniz, curator at the Museu de Arte do Rio; Fernanda Brenner, curator and director of the nonprofit Pivô; Lilian Tone, curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Jorge Schwartz, professor and director of the Museu Lasar Segall; and Marcos Gallon, artistic director of the Verbo performance art festival, as well as countless artists, choreographers, professors, journalists, architects, and other cultural producers.

The letter in full is as follows:

October 20, 2017

Lawrence Argent (1957-2017)

Lawrence Argent, I See What You Mean, 2005.

Sculptor and educator Lawrence Argent died on October 4 at the age of sixty. He is best known for his forty-foot blue bear whose two front paws rest on the glass walls of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver as it peers inside. Argent’s other playful site-specific works include a colossal panda, a giant rabbit, and a stainless-steel Venus that is nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

Born in Essex, England, in 1957, and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Argent graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1983. In 1986, he graduated with a master’s degree in fine arts from the Rinehart School of Sculpture in Baltimore, after which he continued to live in the United States. He eventually settled in Denver, Colorado, where he taught at the University of Denver for twenty-four years.

To create his large-scale works, Argent often started by using a 3-D printer to produce a model of the sculpture. He then built a steel skeleton, which he covered with polymer concrete, fiberglass, and other materials. According to Harrison Smith at the Washington Post, Argent was at the forefront of digital sculpture; he also sat on the board of the Digital Stone Project, which supports artists who want to incorporate new technology, such as robotic stone cutting, into their practices.

“He really understood how combining traditional and advanced technologies could help create art that was truly moving,” Dan Jacob, the director of the Vicki Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver, said in a statement.

October 20, 2017

Lara Favaretto’s Skulptur Projekte Münster Work Raises $31,400 for Refugees

Lara Favaretto, Momentary Monument – The Stone, 2017.

Artist Lara Favaretto used the sculpture she exhibited in this year’s Skulptur Projekte Münster to raise $31,400 for refugees and those facing deportation in Germany. Contributions were revealed when the work was smashed open after the show ended on October 1.

Favaretto’s Momentary Monument – The Stone is part of a series that comments on the impermanence of monuments. A small slot on the side of the monolithic work allowed it to work as a kind of piggy bank. According to Artnews, on Thursday, October 19, the money was donated to Hilfe für Menschen in Abschiebehaft Büren e.V., a German organization that helps displaced people.

Favaretto has a second work in nearby Marl, Germany, the exhibition’s satellite location. Due to “organizational reasons” this stone will not be demolished until sometime next year.

October 20, 2017

Artists Grapple with Devastation Caused by California Wildfires

Firefighter Brandon Tolp working to prevent flames from crossing Highway 29 in Californian on October 12. Photo: Marcus Yam for the Los Angeles Times

As Northern California continues to battle wildfires, which have already blackened more than 240,000 acres, caused $1 billion in damages, and killed at least forty-two people, residents are trying to come to terms with the loss of life and property.

Glass sculptor Clifford Rainey, the chair of the Glass Program at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, lost the Mount George home and studio he shared with his partner, floral designer Rachel Raiser, in a Napa Valley fire. He told Charles Desmarais of the San Francisco Chronicle that he had about thirty-four large-scale works he was currently working onm as well as around thirty other glassworks on the premises. “Every single piece of artwork I own, I’ve had since college, was lost,” he said.

Photographer Norma I. Quintana, who was preparing to head to Puerto Rico to photograph the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, was at her Napa Valley home with her family when she was alerted to an approaching fire by a friend. Shortly after, police arrived to evacuate them. When she returned to the house, everything was gone. “I just thought we would be back and never ever thought it would burn, she told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We had this house almost thirty years.” Among the possessions destroyed by the fire were Quintana’s collection of photographs, including works by Mary Ellen Mark, Sally Mann, and Graciela Iturbide.

October 20, 2017

New York City Launches Three New Artist Residencies

Tania Bruguera, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs’s first public artist in residence, on the steps of City Hall in New York in May. Photo: New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs

New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs has launched three new artist-in-residence programs that will work with the city’s criminal justice system. The Department of Corrections, the Department of Probation, and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence will each host an artist to help facilitate dialogue, encourage collaboration, and build community between the agencies and the residents they serve.

Inspired by the work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles—the city’s first unsalaried artist-in-residence who began working with the Department of Sanitation in 1977—the Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program was launched in 2015. Other agencies that have previously partnered with artists for PAIR include the Department for Veterans’ Services, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and the Administration for Children’s Services.

The open call for the three new initiatives will end on November 13. Each residency, which lasts a minimum of one year, will allow the artists to propose art projects and creative solutions for civic challenges. According to Ana Bermúdez, the Department of Probation commissioner, the artist-led projects could help reduce the odds of inmates reoffending after they’re released from prison. It’s “a great use of taxpayer dollars,” she said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “It’s being smart on crime in a very effective way.”

October 20, 2017

Jazz Musician Alvin Queen Denied Entry into US

Alvin Queen.

The State Department has denied American-born jazz artist Alvin Queen entry into the United States. Queen, who was a dual citizen of the US and Switzerland until 2016, will now be forced to miss his performance at a concert in Washington, DC, in November.

While the government claims that Queen was refused entry because his fingerprints matched an FBI file from 1967, the artist said that his only run-ins with the law include a DWI charge and a minor drug offense, which both resulted in not-guilty verdicts.

“Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me one bit,” Queen said in a statement. “I’ve spent months preparing for this concert. Dozens of others are also implicated in its planning. Funny thing, I gave up my US passport to make life simpler at tax time. I never dreamed I would one day be denied entry, and with such ridiculous reasoning. I am frankly disgusted to be disrespected in this way, after a half century devoted to music.”

October 20, 2017

Oklahoma City Museum of Art Names Roja Najafi Curator

Roja Najafi.

The Oklahoma City Museum of Art has announced that Roja Najafi was appointed the institution’s new curator. Najafi comes to Oklahoma City from Texas, where she taught modern and contemporary art at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin Community College, and Rice University, among other institutions. In Houston, she was a curator at the Strake Jesuit Art Museum.

“Roja’s strong background in modern and contemporary art and impressive academic accomplishments make her a perfect fit for our team,” said Michael J. Anderson, director of curatorial affairs. “Roja will be curating our spring exhibition, ‘The New Art: A Controversial Collection 50 Years Later,’ and I am looking forward to seeing what new scholarship she develops as she researches this important OKCMOA collection. We are glad to have Roja in Oklahoma City.”

October 19, 2017

Paul Vogt (1926–2017)

Paul Vogt. Photo: the Museum Folkwang in Essen.

Paul Vogt, the former longtime director of the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany, died in Münster on October 1 at the age of ninety-one. The institution announced his passing on October 10.

Trained as an art historian, Vogt led Museum Folkwang from 1963 until 1988. During his tenure, he worked to rebuild the museum’s collection, which had been purged of “degenerate art” by the Nazis. More than fourteen hundred artworks were confiscated from the institution beginning in 1937. Vogt repurchased twenty paintings from the original collection of Folkwang founder Karl Ernst Osthof, including Paul Cézanne’s Steinbruch Bibémus (Bibémus Quarry), ca. 1885, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Tanzpaar (Couple), 1914.

Under Vogt’s leadership, the institution also established a photography department and greatly expanded its permanent collection, adding works by American artists such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, and Franz Kline, along with modern and contemporary European pieces by Yves Klein, Gerhard Richter, Lucio Fontana, and the founders of the Zero group: Günter Uecker, Otto Piene, and Heinz Mack. Vogt was focused on restoring the museum’s reputation as the renowned contemporary art institution that prompted Paul J. Sachs, the cofounder of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, to call it “the most beautiful museum in the world” during a visit to Essen in 1932.

October 19, 2017

Portland Museum of Art Announces Artists Participating in 2018 Biennial

Portland Museum of Art in Maine.

Maine’s Portland Museum of Art has announced the artists participating in its 2018 biennial, which opens on January 26, 2018. Among those exhibiting works are painter Anne Buckwalter, photographer Rosamond Purcell, mixed-media artists Gina Adams and David Minter, and canoe-maker David Moses Bridges. All artists live in Maine or have ties to the state.

“Rather than put together a ‘greatest hits’ exhibition,” said independent curator Nat May, “we wanted to use the opportunity of the Biennial to focus on artists who hadn’t previously participated in PMA Biennials or other programming at this institution. To show work in a museum can be an important step for an artist, and to present work to a museum audience can invite a unique opportunity for dialogue and exchange in our varied cultural community.”

The complete artist list is as follows: