Local artists against the war
As the third anniversary of the war in Iraq draws near, SN&R turns its pages over to artists and offers these six posters for your consideration
The printed poster has long been used to advertise political causes. The first widely distributed political posters were actually produced by the world’s militaries during World War I as a major means of propaganda to promote patriotism and hatred of the enemy. Posters played a role in World War II as well, but by then, film and radio, and later television, had become the primary propaganda tools. During the Vietnam War, however, posters made a strong resurgence as a means to voice protest and dissent.
Although a much longer history of visual protest exists—political cartoons were printed as early as the 17th century, and Pablo Picasso’s 1937 anti-war painting “Guernica” is considered his most important work—this new use of the poster provided access to a much wider public. In the late ‘60s, Seymour Chwast, Herb Lubalin and Milton Glaser were among the respected professional graphic designers who focused their talents on political statements against the war and in support of peace—and their voices helped effect change in public opinion. Protest posters helped to remind the public that disagreeing with the powers that be is not only acceptable in a democracy, but an imperative. Democracy can only survive when everybody’s voices are heard.
Even before the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush demanded, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Black-and-white dogmatic statements like this revealed the president’s inability to understand the basic concepts of democracy and free speech. Bush continues to say that dissenting voices only help the terrorists win. The fact is there is a growing mass of Americans who consider themselves well in between Bush’s “us” and “the terrorists"—and their voices are getting louder.
In planning this special issue of SN&R, we decided to hand over our cover and Feature Story space to seven local artists—to let them speak out against three years of war in Iraq. The artists chose their topics and messages carefully and relished the opportunity to add their voices to the public discourse. Unlike Bush, these artists have a deep understanding of democracy, free speech and the need for dissenting opinion. And they speak very loudly.
Each of these posters, as well as the cover art, will be reproduced and sold as 11-by-17-inch printed posters. The proceeds will be donated to the Peace Arts Xchange (PAX), a local group that uses “artistic expression to challenge assumptions about the utility of violence, and to provoke questions about the sources of oppression around the world.” PAX is currently sponsoring a student peace-poster contest for area K-12 students, as well as producing a political-themed show at Axis Gallery in July. For more information on PAX, visit its Web site at www.peacearts.net. You can purchase these posters at the SN&R office, at 1015 20th Street; Toyroom Gallery, at 907 K Street; The Avid Reader, at 1003 L Street; and online at www.newsreview.com, for $10 each or $50 for the full set of six.
Edit: posters are no longer available as of June 17, 2006.<hr>
COVER Artists: Bruce Gossett and Ira Cowart, Black Cat Press
Title: “SN&R—The War Issue”
Artists’ statement: “Black Cat Press sees Bush as a human oil slick with a cowboy thug mentality, who seems to believe when all else fails, pretend you won. It’s a family tradition.”
Artists’ bio: Tucked away in a West Sacramento industrial park, near the taquerias, double-sides and crowin’ roosters, Bruce Gossett, right, and Ira Cowart, left, have been quietly honing their craft of limited-edition rock posters and other screen-printed high jinks since 2000. Cowart’s the computer skills; Gossett has the fine-art licks. Combined with two heads’ worth of screen-printin’ knowledge, they have the bases covered.
Artist: Aaron Winters
Title: “Too Many Give Up Walking, So The Chosen Few May Bling”
Artist’s statement: “So what if a handful of private-interest businesspeople (disguised as civic-minded politicians) are being allowed to decide global policy based on arrogance and personal gain? Who cares if they’ll shelve ethics to gut health care and education or swap some kid’s legs for a half-point bump to their Halliburton stock? What’s the harm in re-marketing the Cold War as ‘The War On Terror’ to pretend the U.S. is doing more than just indiscriminately kicking asses for milk money? Look around … apparently not all that much.”
Artist’s bio: Aaron Winters is the designer, artist and musician behind the Abide Visuals Multimedia Juggernaut. The creative director for a nonprofit, Winters also art-directs for the Weird Forest and Claire’s Echo record labels in addition to running other freelance projects under the AVMJ banner. His portfolio includes work for Vapors magazine, Flat Spot skate shop, and the bands Hella and Yellow Swans. Beyond being honored for package design in How magazine’s 2005 International Design Annual, AVMJ recently published the first issue of the Exit Strategy art annual, and Winters’ work can be seen in the latest Faesthetic and upcoming Semi-Permanent books. Winters will be co-curating and lecturing at the UC Davis Design Museum on Sunday, May 21, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. about the blurring of formal and “underground” design post-9/11.
Artist: Gale Hart
Title: “He’ll Never Be A Real Boy”
Artist’s statement: “I have spent many years making art, during most of that time I was indifferent to politics. Apathy has become an impossible state for me. In regards to using my art for politics, I have chosen to focus my efforts on exposing the social, health and environmental damage caused by humans exploiting and abusing animals. I try to keep my work poignant and ironic without it being too disturbing, something I have maintained through my past bodies of work.
“As for my views on Iraq, the facts are that Saddam Hussein or Iraq had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, 9/11, or Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda did not even exist in Iraq until we got there. But this administration continually linked them together. So either they are stupid—or liars.”
Artist’s bio: Gale Hart has been making art in Sacramento for 25 years. She has received two grants from the city and a number of awards from the California State Fair. Recently, Hart received national notoriety when Herbivore magazine used her art for its cover along with images and a story inside. Hart’s work has been shown around the Western United States. In Sacramento, you can see her work at Exploding Head Gallery. Also, she has two upcoming shows this May: a collaborative effort with John Stuart Berger and Skinner at the Toyroom Gallery in Sacramento and a mix of work at the Roshambo Gallery in Healdsburg.
Artist: Jason Malmberg
Title: “End Domestic Terror-ism”
Artist’s statement: “When I was putting together ideas for this project, I decided right off that I wanted to avoid some of the more overt angles (SUVs, oil, war for profit, etc.) and focus on what I feel is a far more menacing threat post-9/11: the media’s complicity not only in this war, but in the near-constant spooking of the public. Naturally, I painted myself into something of a corner, as that is a hard thing to visualize.
“Ultimately, I decided to riff on a famous image from the Tiananmen Square uprising. This was done in part to mildly echo China’s own current media-censorship problems (with Yahoo, Google, etc.) and also reinforce the individual’s power to take responsibility for his own media diet.”
Artist’s bio: Jason Malmberg is an award-winning, entirely self-taught graphic designer working primarily in print and often in publications. After studying fine art and printmaking at The School of the Art Institute Chicago, he left to design skateboards and apparel and ultimately to work in the alt-newsweekly business. Malmberg has spent the last six years since moving to California working on many different magazine and advertising projects as well as making a name for himself in the burgeoning field of rock-poster art (see several dozen pages of his work at www.gigposters.com).
Artist: Judd Hertzler
Title: “Liberated Deaths”
Artist’s statement: “I rarely use art as propaganda or social commentary. I’m glad I got an opportunity to educate the community, let alone myself, on what’s really going on with the War In Iraq. To put it bluntly: ‘War Kills.’”
Artist’s bio: Judd Hertzler is 28 years old and was born in Westerly, R.I. He is currently a dad, a boyfriend, a student, a professional skateboarder, an employee, a house painter, a designer, a believer and an enthusiast. His current passions are silk-screening, wooden reliefs, and pen-and-ink illustration. He will be in a group show on April 6 at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco called Jump Over Me.<hr>
Artist: George Glazunov
Title: “Who Would Jesus Torture?”
Artist’s statement: “'Ye shall know them by the fruits of their labor.’ That’s what Jesus said in Matthew 7:16. Growing up I studied the Bible and this is one scripture that comes to my mind. When I think of the torture committed and condoned by the Bush Administration at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq and Gitmo, I cringe. As a person of faith and patriot of my country, I became angry by these actions and was inspired to say something through my art. By observing a person’s actions through their thoughts, their words and their actions we can discern their true spirit of intention. I challenge Christians to take a serious look at this issue of torture and not only to pray, but act on it. Who would Jesus torture? I have never known torture to be justifiable by any virtue. How despicable and ignoble war is. Einstein was right when he said ‘It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.’”
Artist’s bio: George Glazunov’s Russian parents suffered under McCarthyism in the 1950s up to the early 1960s. They kept a low profile in fear of being deported back to Europe. Having barely survived Nazi work camps in Czechoslovakia and fearing the worst, they concealed their Russian identity from Glazunov for 16 years. Connections with relatives and a rich cultural heritage with his great-grandfather, Alexander Glazunov, a Russian composer, were virtually unknown. Glazunov’s art is a direct action dedicated to his Russian family and culture and to “other freedom seekers in the world in a time of universal deceit, where telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”