ELECTRONIC CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AT UCSD
How far can one go using "art" as a legal defense? That’s what University of California, San Diego visual arts professor Ricardo Dominguez seems bound to find out. Dominguez, a pioneer in the burgeoning field of "electronic civil disobedience," recently helped launch an "online sit-in" against the website of University of California president Mark Yudof. The strategy had about 400 participants visit Yudof’s website repeatedly for about 90 minutes, in an attempt to slow it down (similar to what is called a "denial of-service attack," which floods a website with traffic, freezing it), as a protest against budget cuts to the UC system and the administration’s priorities.
Now, Dominguez is wanted for questioning by university administrators, while the professor has publicly defended himself by claiming the right of free expression. "A new form of art is not a crime," he told a crowd of about 200 supporters who showed up to a rally in support of his actions. Though it seems a little odd to defend civil disobedience as "not a crime" -- isn’t the whole point to break the law? -- what is undeniable is that Dominquez’s stand has hit a chord on campus. Students wore black tape over their mouths and marched across the UCSD campus to the site of Dominguez’s hearing, which became the focus for an impromptu rally, with fellow professors and students decrying the university’s tactics.
Dominguez was already a lightning rod for controversy over his work on the Transborder Immigrant Tool Project, a GPS application that could help undocumented immigrants to find "water stations" set up by activists in the desert, potentially saving lives (apparently, the Tool also includes an "art component" involving poems). California representatives Brian Bilbray, Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa recently waded into the outcry surrounding the Immigrant Tool, calling it a "troubling use of taxpayer dollars" used to "actively help people subvert federal law," and demanding from the UCSD an accounting of what funds were used for the project. More information on the case, plus links to a petition defending Dominguez, is available at http://bang.calit2.net/
IRISH MUSEUM DEFIES LAW WITH "BLASPHEMOUS"
The Irish art community has come together in defiance of a controversial anti-blasphemy law that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, with Dublin’s Irish Museum of Contemporary Art opening "Blasphemous" on Good Friday. The new law criminalizes any statement "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion," making blasphemy punishable with fines of up to $34,000. In response, curator K. Bear Koss has put together an exhibition featuring work by artists that willfully crosses this line, noting in a curatorial statement that in light of the threats against artists over cartoons of Mohammed and the sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church, "if any new laws regarding religion were needed, they need to be designed to protect us from them." A few highlights of the show:
* Dublin-based street artists and activist Will St. Leger’s piece, God Dates Fags, involves a large banner that proclaims the title phrase. The work is, of course, a parody of the slogan of Christian fundamentalists who picket funerals of dead soldiers in the U.S. ("God Hates Fags"), believing that U.S. wars are divine punishment for tolerance of homosexuality.
* Northern Irish artist Justin McKeown’s performance, placing a "hex" on IMOCA for the duration of the "Blasphemous" show. McKeown declared himself a Magus in 2007 as part of a project on religious belief, saying, "As any lapsed Catholic will know: just because you don’t believe in something is no reason not to practice it."
* Cork-born artist Noël O’Callaghan’s Piss Nike, an update of Andres Serrano’s infamous Piss Christ, featuring a Nike running shoe suspended in a tank full of urine.
* Dublin artist Emir Roberts’ sculpture Child and Rat, a pieta in which the Virgin Mary has been reimagined as a giant sewer rat. According to the artist, the work "presents a merging of ideas," but "is most prominently about the institution of the Church and the wrapped up and confusing notions of our superiority over and our dissimilarity to other species."
* A drawing credited to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, depicting a flying mass of spaghetti and meatballs, with eyes, presiding over the creation of the earth. The drawing was produced as part of an "Open Letter to the Kansas School Board" in 2005, a satirical project that aimed to show that according to the criteria of the theory of "Intelligent Design," one might as well believe that the universe was created by a "Flying Spaghetti Monster." The project is the work of Oregon State University physics student Bobby Henderson.
Other "Blasphemous" artists are Richard Bartle, George Bolster, Hannah Breslin, Steve Farley, Una Gildea, Sarah Hardacre, Jacinta Jardine, Mark Lomax, Matthew MacKisack, Red Meat cartoonist Max Cannon, Kate Walters and Paul Woods. So far, there has been no prosecution of the organizers for the show -- but the government is now saying that later in 2010 it will hold a referendum on the controversial law, due to the public uproar around it.
CHICAGO ARTIST AMONG DEAD IN POLAND PLANE CRASH
Polish-born, Chicago-based sculptor Wojciech Seweryn was among the dead in Saturday’s deadly plane crash in Russia that killed Poland’s president Lech Kaczynski along with many other top officials of the Polish government. Seweryn, who immigrated to the United States in the mid-1970s, was a prominent member of Chicago’s large Polish community. His father had been killed in the World War II-era "Katyn Massacre," which saw the USSR execute tens of thousands of members of the Polish officer corps. In the United States, Seweryn spearheaded the construction of a monument to the atrocity at Saint Adalbert Cemetery in Niles, Il., contributing a sculpture of an angel cradling a wounded soldier. President Kaczynski himself attended the unveiling of the monument at St. Adalbert, in 2007. Chicago’s Alliance of Polish Clubs had appointed Seweryn its official representative to the 2010 commemoration of Katyn in Russia, and it was en route to this ceremony that the fatal plane crash occurred.
AVALANCHE MAG IN LIMITED EDITION
Avalanche magazine, the legendary SoHo-based chronicle of Post-Minimalist art produced from 1970 to ’76 by co-editors Liza Béarand Willoughby Sharp, is being reissued in a facsimile box edition of 100 copies. The interview-based magazine is celebrated, of course, for early treatment of artists ranging from Vito Acconci and Joseph Beuys to Yvonne Rainer and Richard Serra.
The 1,016-page publication reproduces the first eight issues individually, and the final five together as a bound paperback. The edition comes with a certificate signed and numbered by the two editors, shortly before Sharp’s death in December 2008. The price rate is staggered, starting at $350 for the first 40 numbers and gradually rising to $750 for the last 20. Publisher is James Hoff and Miriam Katzeff’s Primary Information, a nonprofit founded in 2006; the book is available from David Platzker’s Specific Object.
"OP OUT OF OHIO" AT WIGMORE
"Op out of Ohio: Anonima group, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Julian Stanczak in the 1960s," Apr. 15-July 9, 2010, an exhibition of over 30 paintings by artists who all studied or taught at Ohio institutions, is set to open at D. Wigmore Fine Art in the Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue. Anuszkiewicz and Stanczak met as undergrads at the Cleveland Institute of Art; Stanczak taught there during 1964-95; and the three members of Anonima, Ernst Benkert (b. 1928), Francis Hewitt (1936-1992) and Ed Mieczkowski (b. 1929) either attended Oberlin College or taught at the Cleveland Institute. The show includes a catalogue with an essay by Joe Houston, curator of the Hallmark Art Collection in Kansas City, Mo.
REGINA GALLERY OPENS IN LONDON
One of Moscow’s top contemporary art spaces, Regina Gallery, is opening a London branch with "Les Misérables," an exhibition of photorealist paintings of contemporary Russian life by Semyon Faibisovich (b. 1949), Apr. 30-May 29, 2010. The new gallery occupies two floors of a former 19th-century warehouse at 22 Eastcastle Street in the Fitzrovia district, and is directed by Romilly Eveleigh and Anya Mackessy. For more info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
DAVID BOLDUC, 1945-2010
David Bolduc, 65, Canadian artist celebrated for colorful, landscape-based abstractions, often made with paint squeezed directly from the tube, died in Toronto on Apr. 8. In 1967 his work was included in "Young Painters of Toronto" at the National Gallery of Canada in 1967, and he had solo shows regularly at Carmen Lamanna Gallery, David Mirvish Gallery, Klonaridis, and Moore Gallery, all in Toronto; his most recent show was at Christopher Cutts Gallery a few months ago.
VICTOR PESCE, 1938-2010
Victor Pesce, 71, painter known for restrained still lifes that often featured a single object, died on Mar. 28 at his home in Sharon, Conn., after nearly a year’s struggle with lung cancer. In the mid-‘60s Victor studied at New York University with Milton Resnick, and he went on to develop an abstract style whose thick impasto recalled Larry Poons and Albert Pinkham Ryder. It was during the late 1990s and early 2000s that Victor developed the intimate still-life idiom for which he is critically acclaimed. Roberta Smith described these works in the New York Times as "equally inspired by Giorgio Morandi’s still lifes and Brice Marden’s monochromes," while the critic David Ebony detected in Pesce’s works "the emotional impact of late Manet still life." Ken Johnson wrote in the Times, "As with Morandi, a main source of inspiration, Mr. Pesce’s objects look slightly anthropomorphic," a quality shared with objects painted by Philip Guston, an artist Victor greatly admired throughout the course of his career. Pesce is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Harris, at whose gallery he showed his work.