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Saturday, May 18, 2019

'1968' ends Sunday at the National Portrait Gallery


Louis S. Glanzman (1922-2013), Robert F. Kennedy 1925-1968, Time cover, June 14, 1968. After winning California's Democratic primary on June 5, 1968, "Bobby" Kennedy.was fatally shot in Los Angeles, two months after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in Memphis. (In this drawing, Kennedy's head pose resembles his brother John's pose, also painted after his assassination which used to hang in the entrance hallway at  the White House.  [See * below.]  Aaron Shikler was the artist of the JFK portrait which was unveiled at the White House in 1971, the likeness directed by Jacqueline Kennedy.  Is it still there?)


For a visual glimpse at what happened in 1968, the telling exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, One Year: 1968, An American Odyssey provides a quick history lesson about a year no one wants to remember

It was a tumultuous, tragic time:  Two national leaders were assassinated, the Vietnam war continued, violence and police beatings were normal in Chicago, the site of the Democratic National Convention, where the mayor, Richard J. Daley boasted that no one was killed at the convention. Richard Nixon's lies persisted.

It was a year of national sadness, one I hope every high school student studies to learn what happened and may happen, a year which certainly ranks near the top of "worst years."

Many of the 30 portraits in the exhibition are political, sports, rock stars, and other celebrities on the covers of Time which the magazine has given to the Portrait Gallery.

Also included is a video of Janis Joplin belting out a song before she died of a heroin overdose in 1970.

The exhibition is part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the National Portrait Gallery.
The 1968 Democratic presidential ticket of Hubert Humphrey (1911-1978) and Edmund Muskie (1914-1996) was overshadowed by 23,000 police troops who beat 3,000 protestors and onlookers under direction by  Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (drawn in the background above, shouting orders) at the Democratic National Convention. This Time cover by Louis S. Glanzman (1922-2013) ran Sept. 6, 1968.
David Levine,(1926-2009), President Johnson as King Lear, Time, Jan. 5, 1968. President Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) was named Time's "Man of the Year" in 1964 and 1967, the latter year "because of his perceived failures," including the interminable Vietnam War, according to the wall label.  His approval rating sank to 38 percent from a high of 80 percent. Mr. Levine modeled Johnson after King Lear, both of whom had troubles with close "associates."
One of the most hated vice-presidents in memory, Spiro Agnew 1918-1996 by Louis S. Glanzman, 1922-2013, ran on the cover of Time Sept. 20, 1968, five years before Agnew resigned the vice presidency due to financial scandal. (John C. Calhoun was the only other vice president to quit.) Richard Nixon chose Agnew as a running mate partially to avoid being usurped as Nixon had been when he served as vice president under President Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969). Nixon's and Agnew's mediocrity served as springboards to persistence intolerance. 
Ardent segregationist George C. Wallace 1919-1998 of Alabama was photographed by Jerome Liebling (1924-2011) in 1968 when Wallace launched the first of three campaigns for president. He won five states in the national race that year but did not do as well in 1972 and 1976.  In the 1972 race while campaigning at a shopping center in Laurel, Maryland on May 15, Wallace was shot and paralyzed.
Unidentified artist, no date, Jimi Hendrix, 1942-1970. After a successful run in Europe, when he returned to the U.S. in 1968, rock star Jimi Hendrix was named "Artist of the Year" by Rolling Stone and Billboard. Like Janis Joplin, he died of a drug overdose in 1970.
At the press briefing to open the exhibition, curator James Barber gave details of the gun screenprint by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) which ran on the cover of Time June 21, 1968. Above is a photo by Richard Darby (no known dates) of Helen Chavez, 1928-2016, Robert Kennedy, and Cesar Chavez, 1927-1993, from March 10, 1968 when Mr. Kennedy visited a rally in California to show support for Mr. Chavez, recently ending a 25-day fast.  He was the president of the United Farm Workers which sought better working conditions and wages/Photo by Patricia Leslie

What: One Year: 1968, An American Odyssey

When: Closing May 19, 2019. The National Portrait Gallery is open daily from 11:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Where: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, 8th and F streets, N. W., Washington, D.C. 20001

Admission: None

For more information: 202-633-8300 or visit the website

Closest Metro station: Gallery Place-Chinatown or walk 10 minutes from Metro Center

  *
Inside the Christmas White House, 2012/Photo by Patricia Leslie

patricialesli@gmail.com

Friday, May 10, 2019

At the think tanks: 'A Journey to the Gulag'

Outside Yekaterinburg, Russia, a memorial to the estimated 130,000 area identified citizens seized in the Gulag/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July, 2018

Last week at the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,  Štěpán Černoušek, founder of the Gulag.cz Association, presented A Journey to the Gulag, a film he made of a 2016 trip to a Gulag camp in Siberia.

The camp was one of the labor prisons which originally got their start in 1919 under Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) and surged under the leadership of Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) who used them for cheap labor and as a place to stash recalcitrants or anyone who remotely may have been deemed suspicious of Stalin's goals, whatever they were. 
Mr. Hynek Kmoníček, the ambassador of the Czech Republic to the U.S., welcomed guests to the Kennan Institute and introduced Mr. Černoušek/Photo by Patricia Leslie


With a team of photographers and videographers, Mr. Černoušek's group traveled by air, water, and foot to an abandoned camp in a remote region 120 miles from the closest town,  one of four labor camps Mr. Černoušek visited between 2009 and 2016.

On the way, the boat they rented for lake travel broke down, and they had to wait for a passing rescue vessel to carry them on their journey, rushing, since time was limited for them to catch a return flight home before winter advanced.

It is cold in September in Siberia, especially when traveling at high speeds across a lake in an open boat.
From left are Mr. Štěpán Černoušek and Steven Barnes at the Kennan Institute/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Reaching the coast, the men tore their way through the thick  tagia to the site, fearful of bears but none were shown.


In the remote forest they found a ghost site with few remains save broken railway tracks covered by the tagia, and barbed wire, practically hidden by the overgrowth.


The tagia is beautiful, like jewelry treasures of the woods with its stripes of many colors and varying heights and widths, reminiscent of giraffe statues, in contrast to the harsh conditions the former residents lived at the camp.


 The tagia and 'Part of 'Project 503' to build a railroad from Salekhard to Igarka near Turukhansk on the Yenisey River, close to the site Mr. Černoušek and his group found /Photo by  Dr. Andreas Hugentobler - Own work, CC BY 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=818367
Outside Yekaterinburg, Russia, a memorial  to the estimated 130,000 area identified citizens seized in the Gulag/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July, 2018
Outside Yekaterinburg, Russia, a memorial  to the estimated 130,000 area identified citizens seized in the Gulag/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July, 2018
Outside Yekaterinburg, Russia, a memorial  to the estimated 130,000 area identified citizens seized in the Gulag/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July, 2018
Outside Yekaterinburg, Russia, a memorial  to the estimated 130,000 area identified citizens seized in the Gulag/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July, 2018



At the remnants of the camp's hospital, the men found a prisoner's diary written by an engineer, and a dark, sad solitary confinement cell about the size of a parking space with four high walls and single window near the ceiling, much like today's solitary cells in Virginia prisons. (Thank you, ACLU of Virginia for filing a class-action lawsuit.)

An estimated 20 million persons from Russia, the U.S., Poland, France, the Netherlands, and other European nations were confined in subhuman conditions to the camps.  (Americans ventured to Russia to work on construction projects, Mr. Černoušek said.)
  He finished the film in February.
Outside Yekaterinburg, Russia, a memorial  to the estimated 130,000 area identified citizens seized in the Gulag/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July, 2018
Outside Yekaterinburg, Russia a memorial  to the estimated 130,000 area identified citizens seized in the Gulag/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July, 2018
Outside Yekaterinburg, Russia, a memorial  to the estimated 130,000 area identified citizens seized in the Gulag/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July, 2018
Outside Yekaterinburg, Russia, a memorial  to the estimated 130,000 area identified citizens seized in the Gulag/Photo by Patricia Leslie, July, 2018

After the Kennan screening ended, a line of guests formed to try virtual "augmented reality" and experience more of the camps through special lenses.

Moscow has a Gulag museum which is not big,  Mr. Černoušek said.  When President Vladimir Putin opened it last year, he never mentioned Stalin's name.

Introducing Mr. Černoušek was Hynek Kmoníček, the ambassador of the Czech Republic to the U.S.

Mr. Černoušek is a Czech citizen and a Russia scholar who, like many enthusiasts, began his study of the Gulag as a hobby, to satisfy his curiosity. 

"I never dreamed [his hobby] would end up in Washington, D.C. at the Kennan Center," he said.  His goal is to "share my experience" using new technologies and 3-D with as many persons as he can.


"It's necessary to speak more about it [now] because it's an international topic," Mr. Černoušek said. 

"Some young people in Russia do not know what the Gulag was." 


He intends to document the sites and educate the world about the Gulag (an acronym for Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagerei, or Main Camp Administration).   

Recently he visited California's World War II American internment camps for the Japanese. 

For him, finding and learning about the Gulag has been "a great adventure" which continues, and his team, all of whom enjoy the outdoors, wants to go back.
  Appearing with Mr. Černoušek were Steven Barnes, associate professor of history at George Mason University, and  Izabella Tabarovsky of Kennan, the moderator.

In 2016 Ms. Tabarovsky discovered  that her great-grandfather, Leonty Briskin, was taken in 1941 from his family to the Gulag.  Fifteen years later he was "rehabilitated" in the "Khrushchev Thaw," and his case closed, which was the same year, 1956, his family learned he died in prison in 1944.  Still, she writes, even today some Russians are ashamed that their family members, although unwilling participants, were part of Gulag camps.


I wanted to ask Mr. Černoušek about the source of his funding.

patricialesli@gmail.com 

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Renwick 'disruption'


Dustin Farnsworth (b. 1983), The Reconstruction of Saints, 2018, collection of the artist who stands in the background/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018

And just when you think you've seen it all...you haven't.

If you missed the show at the Renwick Gallery, Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018, you may see photos of it in the catalogue or catch glimpses of some of the artists and their works here which will erase any doubts you may have about today's artists.


Four of them exhibit an amazing diversity of talents and creativity in their handmade works which connect to the world around us.
 Dustin Farnsworth, The Reconstruction of Saints, 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
 
Dustin Farnsworth with his The Reconstruction of Saints, 2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
Sharif Bey (b. 1974), Assimilation? Destruction, 2000, Juliet Art Museum, Charleston, WVA. The catalogue and wall label note this work is based on Mr. Bey's M.F.A. thesis and includes 1,000 ceramic heads dumped from a bucket into a heap of "collective souls, breaking into more pieces each time."/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018.


Whether you like a particular style, no one can deny the uniqueness, complexity, and sharp edges this group, all born in 1974 or later, bring to the public arena

Continuing the biennial Renwick tradition competition which began in 2000, the selected craft artists who "deserve wider recognition" are Tanya Aguiñiga, Sharif Bey, Dustin Farnsworth, and Stephanie Syjuco. Their works were chosen by Abraham Thomas, curator, Renwick Gallery; Sarah Archer, independent curator; and Annie Carlano, curator, Mint Museum, Charlotte, N.C.

 Sharif Bey (b. 1974), 3 White Birds, 2017, collection of the artist/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
Tanya Aguiñiga (b. 1978) Hand-Felted Folding Chairs, 2006-present, collection of the artist/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
Tanya Aguiñiga, Nopal, 2017, detail, Volume Gallery, Chicago/ Made from clay, horse and human hair, alpaca, flax, iron and more/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018.

Tanya Aguiñiga, Nopal,  2017, Volume Gallery, Chicago/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
Stephanie Syjuco (b. 1974) with her Neutral Calibration Studies (Ornament + Crime), 2016, which, according to the catalogue "questions notions of cultural and political identity." The objects "compete for attention" while modernism begins to overtake colonialism. Collection of the artist and Nion McEvoy/
Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
Stephanie Syjuco, Neutral Calibration Studies (Ornament + Crime), 2016, detail/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
Stephanie Syjuco, Neutral Calibration Studies (Ornament + Crime), 2016, detail/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
Stephanie Syjuco, from left, The Visible Invisible: Plymouth Pilgrim (Simplicity), Antebellum South (Simplicity), and Colonial Revolution (McCall's), all 2018 and from the collection of the artist/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
Stephanie Syjuco with her, from left, The Visible Invisible: Antebellum South (Simplicity) and Colonial Revolution (McCall's), both  2018/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018
Stephanie Syjuco with her Ungovernable (Hoist), 2017,  "which illuminates the rich craft history of protest banners ...[and] highlights the distortion of images and information in the Internet age," according to the catalogue. Collection of the artist and Ryan Lee Gallery, New York/Photo by Patricia Leslie, Nov. 8, 2018

Ms. Aguiñiga was born in San Diego but grew up in Tijuana. An activist who questions gender and nationality, she often relies upon her background as a Mexican American for inspiration. In college she studied furniture design.

Mr. Bey was born in Pittsburgh and focuses on African- American culture and Oceania. A Fulbright scholarship recipient, he has a Ph.D. in art education from Penn State and teaches at Syracuse University.


Mr. Farnsworth was born in Lansing, Michigan where the poor economy has influenced his life and work. His XLIII concerns the 43 persons under the age of 18 who were killed by U.S. police officers in 2015. He holds a B.F.A. in woodworking and functional art from Kendall College of Art and Design.


Ms. Syjuco was born in Manila and is based in California where she teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.  Her concentration is large-scale installations about political dissent and other societal issues. According to the catalogue, she is the only one included in the show without a connection to North Carolina, either as a student and/or artist.

More information about each participant and their works may be found in the softbound catalogue ($34.95) available online or in the shop.
 
In Disrupting press releases, the Renwick stressed the importance of choosing artists who challenge the commonplace while seeking to connect communities, and urge collective engagement, wisdom, and tolerance in the age of divisiveness.

Fifty ceramic, photographic, sculptural, woolen and fiber works were on display.

What: Disrupting Craft:  Renwick Invitational 2018

When: The Renwick is open from 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. every day, except Christmas Day. Disrupting Craft ended May 5, 2019.

Where: 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20006, at the White House 17th St
reet block, adjacent to Blair House.


Admission: No charge

Metro stations: Farragut North or Farragut West

For more information: (202) 633-7970 (recorded) or
(202) 633-2850  
 

patricialesli@gmail.com