A Poem, on a Painting

July 31, 2013

When we launched our new collections website, we committed to building out the information that accompanies each work of art. Our goal is to offer the best contextual and interpretive information that we have available, and, over time, reveal the ongoing scholarship that happens here at the museum.

In addition, we want to use our website as a space for more creative interpretation of artworks. And in that spirit, educator Elizabeth Gerber thoughtfully proposed that we invite poet Karen Holden to compose a poem inspired by one of the paintings on view in our Modern Art galleries: Desert Moon, by Lee Krasner.


Desert Moon, Lee Krasner, 1955, M.2000.82

Karen, who has long contributed to education programs here at the museum, addressed the challenge with dedication and originality. (When I met with her to record the reading of the poem below, she was carrying a rigid file box, containing her neatly-stacked papers, her sharpened pencils, and a ruler. Be gone, stereotype of the unruly poet!) Karen talked through her process, both analytical and creative, of deep engagement with the painting. (She visited the museum every weekend for six weeks, to sit with the painting, and write.) Here’s what she said about the process:

HOLDEN: This is not necessarily a painting I would have chosen, as much as I admire Krasner, so it was great to have it assigned. It was a real challenge. The longer I spent with it, the more I saw it. Each time I visited I wondered: Why is it called Desert Moon? Every week, I looked and I wrote, and when it came time to compose the poem, I collaged it from all the responsive writing I had done, adding and stripping away over and over until the poem revealed itself. Just as Krasner had collaged Desert Moon by adding pieces torn from her old paintings to the canvas along with the paint.

I also did a lot of reading about Krasner, and the Abstract Expressionists. I was delighted to learn that Matisse, who I love, was a huge influence on her, especially his painting, The Red Room, which I reference in the poem. And I learned that Krasner would do a painting, and a title would come to her. It wouldn’t necessarily be descriptive or a literal fit.

The four paintings in the gallery that mean a lot to me are the Motherwell, the Rothko, the Krasner, and the Kline. I initially thought the poem might be a conversation between those four paintings, but that wasn’t quite right. Then I thought it might be a conversation between the artists. No, again. Finally I realized it was a quartet. It was about the paintings, and the artists, and Krasner and my response to them all.

The first section, Expectation, is about trying to understand the painting from the title. Conversation is about the painting, and Krasner, in relation to the other paintings in the gallery and artists in her life. Inspiration is about her process, her courage and her value to Abstract Expressionism. The final section, Revelation, was just that. Once I stopped trying so hard to ‘get’ the painting and let myself simply experience it, the last line of the poem arrived.  What a wonderful surprise!

And here is Karen’s poem:

Quartet for Desert Moon

     Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight.

– Orhan Pamuk

I. Expectation

Moon, where are you?

Hidden in one, two, three, stark trees
Filtering through a brutal desert sky, a spiky
Desert washed blood red, torn against sharp
Black stones, in the claret-stained night

No fuzzy thumbprint, no cool clear light

Just hard shards, the sharp shards of a cracked heart
Silence and the dulling absence of reflection
Barren desert of cactus, of stone, red sand, pink
Bloom and the moon, diminished

Where is the moon, desert?

Where is that sober, milky light?
Maybe it’s all moon, scraped and shaped by time
A terrain of absence, of waiting in the quiet
Missing moon, making what is present, alive

II. Conversation

Rothko’s red painting, titled “white”
Absent black, floating red, the canvas sighs

Not harmony, but balance
The bruised red of late apples, persimmon and rose

Voices in a hushed room volley
Across the Hoffman, the Motherwell, the Kline

The memory of Matisse’s red room, his own
Discourse with the moon seeping into everyone

III. Inspiration

Approach is everything
Tear the old to paper the new
It starts with red
And then the darkness follows

Finding something in nothing
Making something from nothing
Relationship is everything
In painting and in life

You taught them all
To be bold, not to lie, to stare
The image straight in the eye
Not to flinch in a fight

From outside to inside, the moon
Slides, lighting the studio, where
Your own hard rhythms rise
The red of blood, not fire, the black of night

IV. Revelation

You must get close, and wait
As close as the sky-hidden moon will allow
A stark red desert, night-folded trees
Invisible force of the wind, blunt light

Burnished, but not bright

Not the cool articulate moon, only moonlight
On serrated stones and what’s missing: morning
Horizon, plain, the rest flat crimson and black
Shooting upward out of the frame

Or simply: Paper. Canvas. Paint.

© 2013 Karen Holden


Amy Heibel

Modern Mexican Silver: Reflections across Time

April 11, 2013

Recently LACMA received a gift of some 80 pieces of Mexican modernist silver dating from the 1930s to the 1960s. A selection of these objects is on view in the newly reinstalled Latin American galleries. LACMA’s curator and department head of Latin American Art Ilona Katzew sat down with Dr. Penny Morrill, a scholar of Mexican modernist silver at George Masson University to discuss the history of these fascinating objects and their recent gift to the museum. Dr. Morrill will also be at LACMA on Sunday afternoon for a free talk and book-signing.

Frederick Walter Davis, "Swirl Glyph Cuff Bracelet," c. 1935, silver, gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

Frederick Walter Davis, “Swirl Glyph Cuff Bracelet,” c. 1935, silver, gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

Ilona Katzew: Penny, you’re a noted expert on Mexican modernist silver; what got you interested in the subject?

Penny Morrill: My grandparents had the first tourist hotel in Taxco (1931–42), the Hotel Taxqueño, and my mother was born and raised there. When I was 17, I accompanied my grandmother when she returned for a visit with her good friend William Spratling. He showed us around the ranch and we spent a great deal of that time looking at his pre-Columbian collection. This experience and my family’s connection to Mexico led to my decision to study Mexican art and to my fascination with the Taxco silver phenomenon.

IK: People are generally familiar with the name of William Spratling, the architect from New Orleans who established a workshop in Taxco in 1931 and reinvigorated the town’s economy by employing hundreds of local artisans. He was also a brilliant marketing strategist. Could you tell us what drew Spratling to Mexico and some of his achievements?

PM: The archaeologist Frans Blom, founder of Tulane University’s Middle American Research Institute, gave a presentation in New Orleans about his recent finds. Spratling, who was on the faculty of the School of Architecture at Tulane, became enthralled with Mexican culture and, in 1926, began teaching an annual summer course on Mexican colonial architecture at the national university in Mexico City. He received a book contract and, in 1929, resigned from his faculty position at Tulane to buy a house in Taxco and write Little Mexico. Spratling decided to stay and, in order to make a living, he organized a small silver workshop and went into production in 1931. While he is considered one of the foremost silver designers in the world, Spratling was lionized in his own time for the creation of a model industry. Warner Brothers did a documentary about him in 1946 and, in 1949, Spratling was asked by the U.S. government to replicate his workshop in Alaska. A pragmatic visionary, Spratling’s success derived from an emphasis on process rather than product in a handwrought industry, a workshop hierarchy based on ability, the use of local materials combined with silver, and the inspiration of pre-Columbian art. Spratling’s approach to production provided employment and training for hundreds of artisans and became a prototype for countless small industries in Mexico.

William Spratling, Alaska Mask Necklace, 1949, silver, baleen from either a bowhead or blue whale, Alaskan or pinto abalone, gift of Penny Morrill, McLean, Virginia

William Spratling, “Alaska Mask Necklace,” 1949, silver, baleen from either a bowhead or blue whale, Alaskan or pinto abalone, gift of Penny Morrill, McLean, Virginia

IK: Frederick Walter Davis was another American who was a major catalyst in the development of the silver design industry in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s. Did he know Spratling? How did their projects intersect?

PM: Fred Davis would have been one of the first people Spratling encountered in Mexico City. In the 1920s, Davis’s gallery in the Palacio de Iturbide Hotel had become a lively center for the exchange of art and ideas, drawing both Mexican and international artists and intellectuals. Spratling’s architectural drawings were exhibited at the gallery. Rene d’Harnoncourt, who arrived from Austria in 1926, worked with Davis in the development of the gallery. In 1934, he emigrated to the United States, later serving as director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1949–1967). Davis, d’Harnoncourt, and Spratling collaborated on designing and furnishing Ambassador and Mrs. Dwight Morrow’s home, Casa Mañana, in Cuernavaca, the couple’s retreat while Morrow was American ambassador to Mexico (1927–1930). In the late 1920s, Davis was producing a line of jewelry based on pre-Columbian sculpture and contemporary folk art. This jewelry provided inspiration for Spratling’s first designs in silver and, in those early years, Spratling sold his work in Davis’s gallery.

William Spratling, "Quetzalcóatl Head Brooch," 1938–44, silver, gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

William Spratling, “Quetzalcóatl Head Brooch,” 1938–44, silver, gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California

William Spratling, "Jaguar Brooch," c. 1940–46, silver and amethyst, gift of the Goddard Family in memory of Phyllis Goddard, Los Angeles

William Spratling, “Jaguar Brooch,” c. 1940–46, silver and amethyst, gift of the Goddard Family in memory of Phyllis Goddard, Los Angeles

IK: Aside from Spratling, there were other important designers who established equally successful workshops and created astonishing objects. Part of your life’s work, in fact, has been to give these designers their due.  Who, in your estimation, are some of the most salient artists?

PM: According to most Taxquenians, one of the greatest silver designers in twentieth-century Mexico was Valentín Vidaurreta, who collaborated with Fred Davis, Spratling, and Héctor Aguilar. Vidaurreta’s art education in Spain and Paris enabled him to interpret the three-dimensionality of pre-Columbian sculpture with a refined simplicity of line and surface. He was also a master at reproducing in repoussage the flowers from his spectacular gardens. Margot van Voorhies has recently received her due as an extraordinarily gifted and prolific designer at Los Castillo and then on her own at Margot de Taxco. Chato Castillo became a significant design force at Los Castillo after 1950, and Salvador Teran and Sigi Pineda emerged from that workshop to establish their own unique jewelry designs. In Mexico City, Matilde Poulat (MATL) designed and produced jewelry that I consider to be some of the most interesting and exciting work from the period.

Photo by Juan Guzmán of Héctor Aguilar, Antonio Pineda, William Spratling, and Antonio Castillo, c. 1955. Collection of the Latin American Library, Tulane University

Photo by Juan Guzmán of Héctor Aguilar, Antonio Pineda, William Spratling, and Antonio Castillo, c. 1955. Collection of the Latin American Library, Tulane University

IK : Another question that inevitably comes to mind, is who were making these objects, and what was the relationship between the designers and craftsmen?

PM: I have come to realize that the object could not have existed had it not been for the artistic dialogue between designer and maestro. Spratling’s drawings, while occasionally on the backs of envelopes, were fairly complete concepts. However, Spratling was dependent on Marcial Chávez’s genius as a silversmith to interpret the drawing in the production of the silver object that became the prototype for the workshop. Two gifted maestros, Enrique Ledesma and Alfonso Ruiz Mondragón, were chosen by Spratling to produce the prototypes for the Alaska project, one of which is the beautiful mask necklace illustrated above. Master silversmiths at Héctor Aguilar’s “Taller Borda,” Adan Alvarado, Luis Flores, and Julio Carbajal López, are remembered for their contributions. The jewelry signed by Antonio Pineda resulted from the teamwork of an extraordinary group of maestros, including Bruno Rafael Pineda, José María Pineda, Filiberto Gómez, and Luis Montes de Oca. Tane perhaps best exemplifies this dialogue in the Art/Object series, in which renowned artists are given the opportunity to design an object in silver and to collaborate with a maestro in its production.

IK: What I find so fascinating is how Mexico, Taxco, became the epicenter for innovative silver designs, attracting artists, writers, and politicians from all over the world, including Hollywood celebrities such as John Huston, Bette Davis, and Marilyn Monroe. What role do you think the silver industry played in attracting these personalities? 

PM: Art was the language of revolution in twentieth-century Mexico, and the world was drawn by the power of art to enact change. Scholars, artists, authors, communists, and musicians traveled to Taxco for its beauty and to observe the realization of social and economic change wrought by the silver industry. Stuart Chase, Katherine Anne Porter, Hart Crane, Gertrude Stein, and John Dos Passos were among the early cultural pilgrims, as were Aldous Huxley, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Chief White Eagle of Oklahoma, George Gershwin, Leopold Stokowski, and the renowned costume designer Adrian of Hollywood (Dorothy’s red slippers). Other Hollywood luminaries who made their way to Taxco were director John Ford, Leslie Howard, Linda Darnell, Lana Turner, Mae West, Dolores del Río, Errol Flynn, Henry Ford, Paulette Goddard, and many more. These visitors brought home silver jewelry and decorative objects embellished with “exotic” motifs derived from Aztec and Mayan art that became emblems of the new Mexico.

Photo by Florence Arquin of Frida Kahlo in Coyoacán, wearing a necklace made for her by Frederick Davis with a Tlatilco ceramic figure on a silver plaque (detail), 1949, photo: courtesy of Spencer Throckmorton, New York

Photo by Florence Arquin of Frida Kahlo in Coyoacán, wearing a necklace made for her by Frederick Davis with a Tlatilco ceramic figure on a silver plaque (detail), 1949, photo: courtesy of Spencer Throckmorton, New York

IK: Many of the works in LACMA’s inaugural gift reveal a fascination with indigenous cultures and ancient Mesoamerican forms and materials. How did these motifs fit within the larger vogue for all things Mexican, and also the archaeological discoveries of the time? 

PM: Spratling owned reproductions of the Codexes Vindobonensis, Fejérváry-Mayer, and Nuttall as part of an extensive library on pre-Columbian art. He shared his passion for collecting with Josué Sáenz, Miguel Covarrubias, Diego Rivera, and Roberto Montenegro, and with North Americans Nelson Rockefeller, Robert Woods Bliss, Gillett G. Griffin, and Morton D. May. Spratling visited archeological sites and knew many of the notable archaeologists and scholars in Mexico, among them, Ignacio Bernal, Herbert J. Spinden, Alfonso Caso, and George Vaillant. Caso’s discovery in 1931 of the gold treasure in Monte Albán’s Tomb 7, in Oaxaca, directly influenced the work of designers in Taxco and throughout Mexico. Most of these Mexican jewelers resisted slavish imitation and moved to subtle and suggestive borrowings, all the while retaining symbolic references. The resonance of these works reveals the fascination with indigenous culture, which was shared by those who made the silver and by those who bought it. Today these silver designs remain powerful and sensuous artistic statements.

Left: William Spratling, "Tree of Life Brooch," c. 1938–44, silver and copper. Gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California; Right: "Xochiquetzal," from the "Codex Fejérváry-Mayer," Nahua, Mexico, 1350–1500, World Museum, Liverpool, Great Britain, folio 29, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Left: William Spratling, “Tree of Life Brooch,” c. 1938–44, silver and copper. Gift of Ronald A. Belkin, Long Beach, California; Right: “Xochiquetzal,” from the “Codex Fejérváry-Mayer,” Nahua, Mexico, 1350–1500, World Museum, Liverpool, Great Britain, folio 29, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

IK: Finally, Penny, why is it so significant to represent these works at LACMA and in Los Angeles?

PM: Something almost magical took place in Taxco during the twentieth century. Vast numbers of designs poured out of the workshops where there seemed to be no limits on creativity and experimentation. Marked by technical and stylistic innovation, the jewelry and decorative objects are a worthy match to the modernist Mexican paintings on display at LACMA. The museum is the first in the world to develop a collection of Mexican twentieth-century silver and, as a result of the generosity of collectors from across the United States, LACMA has been able to acquire extraordinary examples of the silversmith’s art. Los Angeles has strong ties to Mexico, and these will only be strengthened by LACMA’s efforts to represent the full range of Mexico’s artistic output. This silver collection will become the benchmark for the future, as inspiration for connoisseurs, artists, and designers. In future years, museum visitors will get the opportunity to view new work by young contemporary designers working in Mexico today. The exciting aspect of Mexican silver is that there is always something new to discover. Even more fun is that you can set your table with Mexican silver candlesticks, bowls, and flatware and then wear Mexican jewelry to the party!

Ruscha and Film

January 15, 2013

Ed Ruscha first drew the Hollywood sign in 1967. Since then, the familiar icon has appeared in many of his paintings, drawings, and prints. Although he has joked that the sign was “a smog indicator: If I could read it, the weather was OK,” its recurrence in his art hints at Ruscha’s deep, personal engagement with film and film culture. I traced some of these connections while preparing the exhibition Ed Ruscha: Standard.

Ed Ruscha, Hollywood, 1968, Museum Acquisition Fund, © 2012 Edward J. Ruscha IV. All rights reserved. Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

Ed Ruscha, Hollywood, 1968, Museum Acquisition Fund, © 2012 Edward J. Ruscha IV. All rights reserved. Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

Ruscha vividly recalls seeing Hollywood films at the local theater while growing up in Oklahoma. When he moved to Los Angeles in 1956, he became more immersed in cinema. Among the films he recalls from that time are Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957) and Joseph Strick’s The Savage Eye (1960); he also saw foreign films and silent classics at the Vagabond Theater on Wilshire Boulevard near MacArthur Park.

The early 1960s brought about an exciting convergence of young Hollywood and the artistic avant-garde. Ruscha entered these circles and became friendly with Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell, Harry Dean Stanton, Toni Basil, Teri Garr, Walter Hopps, Bruce Conner, Wallace Berman, Stan and Jane Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, and many others. He was at the Hollywood party that Hopper threw for Andy Warhol when the Pop art star made his first visit to Los Angeles in 1963.

By the late 60s and early 70s, Ruscha was making his own films: a self-referential documentary of sorts titled The Books of Ed Ruscha (1968–69, unreleased), followed by the narrative films Premium (1971) and Miracle (1975), both on view in the current exhibition. While he enjoyed the experience of making these films, Ruscha didn’t take them too seriously. He remarked in 1973, after attempting to find distribution for Premium: “Some artists make films that are an end in themselves…they’re statements. Mine’s not like that. I don’t want people to look at the film like it’s a deep statement on my part. It’s just an excuse, the story, to make a movie…. I don’t know where the movie fits in anywhere, and I can’t place it in my art at all.”

Ed Ruscha, Sin/Without, 1990, purchased with funds provided by the Modern and Contemporary Art Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, © 2012 Edward J. Ruscha IV. All rights reserved. Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

Ed Ruscha, Sin/Without, 1990, purchased with funds provided by the Modern and Contemporary Art Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, © 2012 Edward J. Ruscha IV. All rights reserved. Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA

Although Ruscha’s movies might not fit into his art, he and his art did find their way into several movies: he created title designs for Mel Damski’s Yellowbeard (1983), had a small role in Alan Rudolph’s Choose Me (1984), and the painting Sin (now in LACMA’s collection and on view in the exhibition) had a bit part in Michael Tolkin’s The New Age (1990). Cinematic motifs continued to proliferate in Ruscha’s work as well, for example a series of prints and paintings depicting film leader, surplus, filler, and tails, inspired by the “flaws and scratches” in old movies. More recently Ruscha appeared in Frontier, a film by artist Doug Aitken (2009), and last year he was the subject of a tribute by Lance Acord on the occasion of LACMA’s Art+Film Gala.

In 2009, Ruscha curated a film series in conjunction with a major exhibition of his work at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne.  For anyone who wants to update their Netflix queue, Ruscha’s suggestions are:

  • Island of Lost Souls (1932), director Erle C. Kenton
  • Bringing Up Baby (1938), director Howard Hawkes
  • Grapes of Wrath (1940), director John Ford
  • The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), director William Wellman
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950), director Billy Wilder
  • Try and Get Me (1950), director Cy Endfield
  • Night of the Hunter (1955), director Charles Laughton
  • Paths of Glory (1957), director Stanley Kubrick
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), director Jack Arnold
  • Private Property (1960), director Leslie Stevens
  • Cul de Sac (1966), director Roman Polanski

Britt Salvesen, curator and department head, prints and drawings department and Wallis Annenberg Photography Department

I Had a Dream

January 11, 2012

The art of Edward Biberman is currently on view in a special installation, and in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this Monday, I want to make sure our audiences know about his painting of Dr. King on display. Acquired last June thanks to the generosity of the American Art Council, I Had a Dream was Biberman’s response to Dr. King’s 1968 assassination. Prominently placed in the exhibition space, Dr. King’s eyes are unavoidable and draw you into his vision and the gallery.

Edward Biberman, I Had a Dream, 1968, purchased with funds provided by the American Art Council, © Edward Biberman Estate

Edward Biberman moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles in 1936 and is best known for later paintings such as The White Fire Escape, in LACMA’s collection. Such urban scenes reveal his affinity for the seemingly mundane details of midcentury modern architecture, which he illuminated through his attention to the light, shadow, and geometry of both subject matter and composition. But throughout his career he created important figurative paintings of labor, social struggle, and political tension, such as Conspiracy (1955), as well as significant portraiture. His portraits of African American cultural and political leaders are especially noteworthy: he created a monumental portrait of Paul Robeson, and his Lena Horne is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery where it has graced enormous banners on their façade.

I Had a Dream is unique for Biberman in that it zooms in on the civil rights leader’s face. Though we see only Dr. King’s eyes, nose, and mustache, his iconic features are instantly recognizable. The searing intensity of his gaze is not confrontational but steadfast and visionary.  This is a portrait with which all can connect. A large and powerful painting like I Had a Dream not only represents one of the most important figures of the twentieth century but demonstrates the devastating impact of Dr. King’s death on all Americans and can remind us of the significance of his legacy today.

Austen Bailly

Edward Biberman’s Conspiracy

December 7, 2011

I was a double major as an undergraduate, in art history and political science, and have always loved the intersection of art and politics. I think that was what first drew me to Edward Biberman, particularly his 1955 painting Conspiracy, currently on view in the Ahmanson Building as part of a focused installation of LACMA’s Biberman holdings.

Edward Biberman, Conspiracy, c. 1955, LACMA, purchased with funds provided by the Judith Rothschild Foundation; Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren & Sloane, L.L.P.; Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser; the Frederick R. Weisman Philanthropic Foundation; Dr. Judd Marmor; Paul and Suzanne Muchnic; the Reese E. and Linda M. Polesky Family Foundation; and Marvin and Judy Zeidler

The image is a very striking one, infused with a creepy quality. No one’s face is fully visible—indeed two of the four men are only seen from the rear—and the strangely paired hands seem almost cadaverous. The thinly painted surface and odd, slightly acidic palette add to the tension of the scene depicted.

What exactly is the subject here? The painting’s title offers a hint; Biberman’s biography supplies the rest. One of the best California painters working in a modernist idiom, Biberman was born in Philadelphia in 1904. Rather than joining the family garment business, he chose to study art, first in his hometown and then in Paris. After settling temporarily in New York, he followed his screenwriter brother Herbert to Los Angeles in 1936 and established himself as a portraitist. Edward increasingly incorporated social concerns into his paintings, his political consciousness heightened by the Spanish Civil War and the international rise of fascism. Then, in 1947, disaster struck the Biberman family. Edward’s brother Herbert was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, D.C. to testify about his allegedly politically subversive acts. Citing his first-amendment rights to free speech and assembly, Herbert refused to testify (he and nine other filmmakers who similarly refused were dubbed the Hollywood Ten), and as a result later spent five months in prison and was blacklisted from the film industry.

His brother’s experience had a profound impact on Edward. He stopped painting for a while, explaining later that “during the specific period…that my brother was imprisoned and denied the opportunity to do his work, I, in good conscience, could not just go normally into my studio and carry on my profession.” Edward himself came under official criticism for his leftist leanings during these years, and he resigned from his teaching position at Art Center to avoid being dismissed. After he returned to painting in the early 1950s, Biberman created Conspiracy, clearly a reference to his brother’s harrowing and anxiety-inducing experience before the HUAC. The power of the image is heightened, however, by its very lack of specificity. While its roots lie in one individual’s personal history, its “moral,” if you will, is much broader. In fact, it could just as easily refer to current events such as the Chinese government’s 81-day detention of artist Ai Weiwei this past spring. Eternal vigilance truly is the price of liberty, and art can play an important role.

Carol S. Eliel, Curator of Modern Art

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