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Interesting Links: Black Paintings + Cold War era cultural hegemony



Hotere Documentary

(2001) by Merata Mita Ralph Hotere (Te Aupōuri) is regarded as one of New Zealand's greatest artists. This documentary by Merata Mita provides a perspective on his world, largely by way of framing his extensive body of work. Hotere remains famously tight-lipped throughout, but there are interviews with artists, friends and commentators, alongside scenes of Hotere working and of his contemporary home context. Mita's impressionistic film is set to a Hirini Melbourne-directed score of jazz, māori and pop songs, and poetry reading by Hotere's first wife Cilla McQueen.

The Impact and Influence of the Work of Ralph Hotere

In Conversation with Paratene Matchitt, Shane Cotton, and Megan Tamati-Quennell (Moderator) about the Work of Ralph Hotere.

Indigenous Modernisms: Histories of the contemporary

11–12 December 2014

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, New Zealand

The Indigenous Modernisms symposium is a collaboration between the Art History Programme, Victoria University of Wellington, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and the ‘Multiple Modernisms: 20th Century Modernisms in Global Perspective’ research project.

A Black Union Jack by Ralph Hotere

The Black Light Paradox: The Sumptuous Austerity of Ralph Hotere's Art "Ralph Hotere is the first artist of Maori descent to have been written, by Pakeha, as early as 1968, into a history of New Zealand art.(1) Despite his ambivalence about being labelled as any kind of cultural or ethnic artist, he is also often claimed as a founding figure, half a century ago, of today’s burgeoning contemporary Maori art movement. Hotere has been positioned as such in a number of exhibitions, most notably Korurangi: New Maori Art which opened Auckland Art Gallery’s New Gallery in 1995. Yet of our indigenous artists he could also be said to be, paradoxically, the country’s most European...In a magnificently evocative essay, ‘Tenebrae-transfigured Night. Ralph Hotere, a viable religious art and its traditions’, in the Black Light exhibition publication, Gregory O’Brien refers to ‘the hybridised Maori-Catholic tradition of his (the artist’s) upbringing.’(5) ...‘Everything he touches turns to black,’ David Eggleton wittily observes of the artist.(12) Although Hotere can be a superb colourist, Black Light ‘is structured around two predominant concepts.’(13) One is the persistence of black in his work; the other is the importance in his practice ‘of the repetition of major serials, and of singular, large-scale installations’.(14) Of the paintings, the series Black Paintingshas been likened in its extreme reductivism to the Black Paintings of Ad Reinhardt (from whose 1964 lecture given at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, which Hotere missed, he quotes in the catalogue of his ‘Zero’ paintings show at the Barry Lett Gallery in 1967); at the same time Hotere’s shiny black, reflective lacquered surfaces, each featuring a perfectly centred, full-length, sharp, slit-like cross painted in one of the seven colours of the solar spectrum, are the very antithesis of the American painter’s self-effacing images. ...On the one hand his origins in a small Maori Catholic community have continued to warm the emotional and spiritual heart of his art. He is, after all, a Maori artist of great originality and ingenuity. With his hard-case do-it-yourself practicality—his cheerful (ab)use of power tools and industrial materials, especially those of the Kiwi vernacular such as corrugated iron, leadheaded nails, fence posts and recycled timbers, and even number eight wire—Hotere also belongs at the forefront of mainstream New Zealand art history. But in a sense he also stands outside it, both as a Maori and as one of the most cosmopolitan, sophisticated, international artists New Zealand has yet produced."


Art Historians Find Racist Joke Hidden Under Malevich's "Black Square" | Hyperallergic (2015) After examining “Black Square” under a microscope, researchers from Russia’s State Tretyakov Gallery, which houses one of three versions of the Suprematist composition, found a handwritten inscription under a topcoat of black paint. They believe it reads “Battle of negroes in a dark cave.”


Hijack: The CIA and Literary Culture - Los Angeles Review of Books (2017) "In Finks: How the CIA Tricked The World’s Best Writers, Joel Whitney, co-founder and editor-at-large of Guernica: A Magazine of Arts and Politics, has written an essential book on a small but key part of the prehistory of this hijacking of culture: the story of how TheParis Review and other magazines from the 1950s on were funded and backed by the CIA and became a central force in pushing leading writers of the day to produce propaganda for a hungry yet unsuspecting audience. The CIA even developed a large art collection in its curious approach to cultural hegemony. Whitney succinctly explains how, during the Cold War, the US government was constantly worried about citizen morale and a fear that some would be attracted to the Soviet system. “Militant liberty” was the term for inserting propaganda into magazines, film scripts, and popular culture, pushing American-style values and decrying life under Communism in Central America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, as well as at home. The Pentagon and other government arms believed that it was possible for populations of these areas to ignore US violence if they read about the supposed glories of life in small town USA. Little has changed in the mindset of today’s propagandists, who still aim to deceive people through wartime lies." How the CIA Infiltrated the World's Literature - VICE (2017) "When the CIA's connections to the Paris Review and two dozen other magazines were revealed in 1966, the backlash was swift but uneven. Some publications crumbled, taking their editors down with them, while other publishers and writers emerged relatively unscathed, chalking it up to youthful indiscretion or else defending the CIA as a "nonviolent and honorable" force for good. But in an illuminating new book Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World's Best Writers, writer Joel Whitney debunks the myth of a once-moral intelligence agency, revealing an extensive list of writers involved in transforming America's image in countries we destabilized with coups, assassinations, and other all-American interventions. ...While the CIA's involvement in anti-Communist propaganda has been long known, the extent of its influence—particularly in the early careers of the left's most beloved writers—is shocking. Whitney, the co-founder and editor at large of the literary magazine Guernica, spent four years digging through archives, yielding an exhaustive list—James Baldwin, Gabriel García Márquez, Richard Wright, and Ernest Hemingway all served varying levels of utility to Uncle Sam. (Not that the CIA's interest were only in letters: Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko were also championed by arms of the agency.) But don't let that ruin Love in the Time of Cholera. Whitney explains with methodical clarity how each writer became a tool for the CIA. This nuance not only salvages many of the classics from being junked as solely propaganda, but it serves as a cautionary tale for those trying to navigate today's "post-truth"media landscape. In an era where Facebook algorithms dictate the national discourse, even the most well-meaning journalist is prone to stories that distract on behalf of the US government." How the CIA Tricked the World's Best Writers | The Nation (2017) "There’s a generation of lit mags that thought of themselves as apolitical. The Paris Review is one, maybe The Kenyon Review is another. They were influenced by the New Critics—less engagement with history and more engagement with the text. Anyway, flash-forward to maybe 2010, I think; I belatedly saw a New York Times story about Immy Humes’s film Doc, and there were those blurbs about The Paris Review’s alleged CIA ties, or Peter Matthiessen’s alleged CIA ties, and I thought, I’m interested in this. [Harold “Doc” Humes was a Paris Review co-founder, Immy Humes his daughter. Doc was released in 2008.] Why would an apolitical magazine interest the CIA? Would it have been just for his [Matthiessen’s] cover, as I later found out he said? Or would it have been of interest for its own doings? And that’s when I discovered the story, told through people like Frances Stonor Saunders [The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, 1999] and Hugh Wilford [America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, 2013]. I got interested then, and it became an obsession."

"The Paris Review has been hailed by Time magazine as the “biggest ‘little magazine’ in history.” At the celebration of its 200th issue this spring, current editors and board members ran down the roster of literary heavyweights it helped launch since its first issue in 1953. Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, T.C. Boyle, Edward P. Jones and Rick Moody published their first stories in the Review; Jack Kerouac, Jim Carroll, Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides all had important early stories in its pages. But as Peter Matthiessen, the magazine's founder, has told interviewers -- most recently at Penn State -- the journal also began as part of his CIA cover."

The CIA and Paris Review – The Times Literary Supplement (2017) ~ (Requires log-in)

Exclusive: The Paris Review, the Cold War and the CIA | (2012)

"The Paris Review has been hailed by Time magazine as the “biggest ‘little magazine’ in history.” At the celebration of its 200th issue this spring, current editors and board members ran down the roster of literary heavyweights it helped launch since its first issue in 1953. Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, T.C. Boyle, Edward P. Jones and Rick Moody published their first stories in the Review; Jack Kerouac, Jim Carroll, Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides all had important early stories in its pages. But as Peter Matthiessen, the magazine's founder, has told interviewers -- most recently at Penn State -- the journal also began as part of his CIA cover."


Modern art was CIA 'weapon' | The Independent (1995) "Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete. ...The decision to include culture and art in the US Cold War arsenal was taken as soon as the CIA was founded in 1947. Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world."

Max Kozloff describes color as the salvation of painting, 1975

Art historian, photographer, and former Artforum and The Nation editor, Max Kozloff, reflects on the role of color in painting. Presented as part of the Evening Lecture Series at the New York Studio School. Recorded on February 11, 1975.

BBC - Culture - Was modern art a weapon of the CIA? (2016) "In 1973, in an article in Artforum magazine, the art critic Max Kozloff examined post-war American painting in the context of the Cold War. He claimed to be reacting against the “self-congratulatory mood” of recent publications such as Irving Sandler’s The Triumph of American Painting (1970), the first history of Abstract Expressionism. Kozloff went on to argue that Abstract Expressionism was “a form of benevolent propaganda”, in sync with the post-war political ideology of the American government. In many ways, the idea seemed preposterous. After all, most of the Abstract Expressionists were volatile outsiders. Pollock once said that everyone at his high school in Los Angeles thought he was a “rotten rebel from Russia”. According to David Anfam, co-curator of the Royal Academy exhibition, “Rothko said he was an anarchist. Barnett Newman was a declared anarchist – he wrote an introduction to Kropotkin’s book on anarchism. So here you had this nexus of non-conformist artists, who were completely alienated from American culture. They were the opposite of the Cold Warriors.” Despite this, however, Kozloff’s ideas took hold. A few years before they were published, in 1967, the New York Times had revealed that the liberal anti-Communist magazine Encounter had been indirectly funded by the CIA. As a result, people started to become suspicious."

Picking up the Banner (1957-1960) by Gely Mikhailovich

How Jackson Pollock and the CIA Teamed Up to Win The Cold War (2017)

"In the same way the Soviet Union standardized language, education, and industrial production, it similarly standardized art. By Stalin’s directive, there was only one aesthetic which was acceptable: socialist realism. During the Soviet Congress of 1934, acceptable art was defined as: 1. Proletarian: art relevant to the workers and understandable to them 2. Typical: scenes of everyday life of the people 3. Realistic: in the representational sense 4. Partisan: supportive of the aims of the State and the Party The CIA noticed one very crucial fact about abstract expressionism: it was the polar opposite of socialist realism. ...However, due to the aforementioned ban instituted by the State Department, this abstract-expressionism had to be supported in covert through several degrees of separation. Soon, the CIA found the ideal conduit for resources: the Museum of Modern Art in New York."

Unpopular Front | The New Yorker (2005)

"Taylor Littleton and Maltby Sykes’s “Advancing American Art: Painting, Politics, and Cultural Confrontation at Mid-Century,” recently published in a second edition (Alabama; $19.95), is an appropriately amused and acerbic account of the fiasco. In 1946, the State Department’s newly formed Office of International Information and Cultural Affairs put together a show called “Advancing American Art.” The division spent forty-nine thousand dollars of government money to purchase seventy-nine paintings by American artists. The exhibition was intended, as Littleton and Sykes put it, to be “one element in an international definition of American reassurance, stability, and enlightenment”—a friendly beacon in the grim aftermath of the war. It included works by Romare Bearden, Arthur Dove, John Marin, Ben Shahn, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jacob Lawrence. Very few of the paintings were abstract, but most were identifiably modern: naturalist, expressionist, painterly. The State Department wanted the world to know that the United States was not just a nation of cars, chewing gum, and Hollywood movies. A preview of the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum was well received. In The Nation, Clement Greenberg, already a leading arbiter of advanced painting, wrote that the show was “a remarkable accomplishment, and its moral should be taken to heart by those who control the public destiny of art in our country.” The collection was split into two; thirty paintings were sent to Latin America, and the rest went to Paris and then to Prague. The exhibition was scheduled to continue to Hungary and Poland, but Czechoslovakia turned out to be the last stop. In spite of the reviews, the show had been attacked by the American Artists Professional League, an organization of conservative artists and illustrators, which wrote to the State Department to complain that the selection was unrepresentative, and that the paintings that had been chosen were “strongly marked with the radicalism of the new trends in European art” and were “not indigenous to our soil.” By the time the show was overseas, the story had been picked up in the mainstream press. Look ran an article, with illustrations, under the headline “Your Money Bought These Paintings.” The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee wrote an angry letter to the Secretary of State, George C. Marshall. “The paintings are a travesty upon art,” he complained. “They were evidently gotten up by people whose object was apparently to, (1) To make the United States appear ridiculous in the eyes of foreign countries, and to (2) Establish ill-will towards the United States.”

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