United States cartoonist sacked for anti-Trump cartoons

United States President Trump breaking up families, censored cartoon by Rob Rogers

By Kayla Costa in the USA:

Political cartoonist fired by right-wing Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editors over anti-Trump cartoons

16 June 2018

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fired political cartoonist Rob Rogers on Thursday, after weeks of editors blocking his content from the publication. The newspaper’s censorship coincides with the rise of openly pro-Trump members on the editorial board.

Rogers is an acclaimed political cartoonist, who has won a number of awards including the National Headliner Award and Thomas Nast Award. Having worked for the Post-Gazette since 1993, Rogers has only recently faced rejection of his political content. Nineteen of his ideas and cartoons have been rejected since March, according to his own count.

Tracey DeAngelo, an executive from the newspaper, said that their decisions “had little to do with politics” and more to do with the “working together and the editing process.”

However, the content of Rogers’ artwork places politics at the center of any editorial discussion. Of the cartoons that were rejected by the editors, many were highly critical of the anti-democratic and anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration.

Rogers’ rejected cartoons referenced President Trump’s discussion of pardoning himself from the ongoing investigation into supposed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, his far-right attack on basic democratic rights and his brutal immigration policies. He also depicted topics relating to racism, including the recent moves by the National Football League (NFL) to force players to stand during the national anthem in the wake of demonstrations against police brutality.

The paper’s editors did not give an explanation to Rogers as to why these cartoons would not be published, but they had recently encouraged him to not issue such harsh criticisms of Trump or comment on other social issues. Prior to firing him, the paper tried to work out a new deal for 2 cartoons and a cartoon strip per week that posed less opposition to the right-wing views of the paper. While they didn’t ban him from anti-Trump content, they openly sought to lower “the tone and frequency” of it.

Another censored Trump cartoon by Rob Rogers

The censoring of Rogers’ artwork is a relatively recent phenomena, starting in March after the merger of the editorial boards of the Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade, both of which are owned by Block Communications.

Keith Burris, the new vice president and editorial director for both newspapers, represents the conservative and right-wing elements that now run the paper. He has written a number of editorials and articles that endorsed Trump’s 2016 election campaign and defended his actions since, such as his racist condemnation of immigrants from “shithole countries” in January.

The papers’ publisher, John Robinson Block, and Burris had a meeting with Trump on his private plane in 2016. Though the executive layers of the publishing company have long been filled with conservative ideology, the past three months mark a decisive shift to limit left-wing opinions from finding any expression the Post-Gazette.

Burris said on Friday that his goal is to move away from “ideological intent” toward “independent and thoughtful” journalism. To give an idea of the irony of these arbitrary guidelines, recent editorials by Burris run the headlines “Let Trump be Trump” and “John McCain: The last statesman.”

The editorial director’s right-wing views have drawn criticism from staff, including a letter from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh signed by 150 newsroom employees of the Post-Gazette that denounced his editorial justifying Trump’s “shithole countries” diatribe. The letter opposed the outright racist bigotry of the editorial and clarified that “its sentiments solely represent the opinions of the Block family, owners of the Post-Gazette, and not their loyal employees who use our talents to fight against what this editorial stands for.”

Upon being dismissed from the company and rejecting an insulting offer to be an independent contractor, Rogers said in a statement: “I fear that today’s unjustified firing of a dissenting voice on the editorial pages will only serve to diminish an opinion section that was once one of America’s best. I love what I do and will continue to find ways to do it and get it out there. The world needs satire now more than ever.”

Many individuals and groups have come to Rogers’ defense. The Newspaper Guild wrote, “Given the recent killing of a number of Rob’s cartoons critical of President Trump and conservative positions, favorites of the publisher and editorial director, it perhaps is not surprising that this sad day for the Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh community and journalism has arrived.”

Leaders of the Ad Hoc Group to Free Rob Rogers organized a rally in downtown Pittsburgh on Friday where dozens denounced the paper. “The local paper is one of the foundations of American democracy,” the group wrote in an official statement. “Its purpose is to inform the citizens and to hold the powerful in the public and private sectors accountable. But who is there to hold the Post-Gazette accountable? We, the people. That’s who.”

Rogers’ cartoons largely reflect the politics of the Democratic Party. His criticisms of Trump do not mention the role of wider layers of the military-intelligence and political establishment, including the Democrats themselves. …

Nonetheless, the Post-Gazette’s decision to fire Rogers on the basis of his anti-Trump politics constitutes a disregard for basic principles of free press and must be understood within the context of right-wing, anti-democratic politics which dominate the mainstream media.

Google and Facebook have initiated an advanced censorship campaign in an effort to block all “fake news” and “divisive content,” suppressing left-wing, anti-war and progressive websites. These moves have been aided by their close relationships with the military-intelligence apparatus and federal government.

Local news agencies are not at all isolated from these trends. The FCC is likely to approve the proposal of Sinclair Broadcast Group to buy Tribune Media, after which the national media corporation would own local TV news stations reaching three-quarters of the American population. Sinclair openly pushes a right-wing agenda. David Smith, the executive chairman of Sinclair, told New York Magazine this year, “The print media is so left wing as to be meaningless dribble which accounts for why the industry is and will fade away.”

When media and news is dominated by a small handful of corporate interests, information itself is used in the interests of promoting the conservative, right-wing and fascistic politics of the ruling class that news executives represent. Fearing the growing radicalization of the working class and youth, the billionaires atop the media monopolies are eager to suppress left-wing and oppositional views from reaching a wide audience.

See also here.


British pro-peace artist Peter Kennard exhibition

Union Mask (2003), Warhead (1986), and Broken Missiles (1980). Photo: Peter Kennard

By Len Phelan in England:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Exhibition Review: Art of protest and survival

Peter Kennard‘s exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of CND is a potent reminder of why its message is so vital, says LEN PHELAN

Art Against War: Peter Kennard and the CND Movement
Millennium Gallery, Sheffield

THE SABRE-RATTLING over the Korean peninsula a few months ago saw the spectre of nuclear conflagration again loom into view, a vision chillingly reinforced by the hands of the Doomsday Clock — the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ symbol representing the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe — moving to two minutes off midnight.

Arms Conversion (1986) and Haywain with Cruise Missiles (1981) by Peter Kennard

So to say that this exhibition, marking the 60th anniversary of the foundation of CND, is timely is something of an understatement.

It draws together works by Peter Kennard, one of this country’s most significant political artists, who for decades has supported the campaign founded in 1958 in response to the detonation of Britain’s first hydrogen bomb and the housing of US nuclear weapons in this country.

His photomontages have ensured that the movement, and the striking imagery that came to represent it, have been etched into the public consciousness, none more so than his 1980 image Protest and Survive, depicting a skeleton reading a civil “defence” booklet which skewers the idiocy of government propaganda, or the portrait of Tony Blair taking a selfie in front of a massive conflagration during the Iraq war.

Kennard, who trained as a fine artist, turned from painting to photomontage in the late 1960s and, drawing on the traditions of constructivism and the techniques of early pioneers like John Heartfield, developed his unique and instantly recognisable subversion of the familiar and the iconic.

Running Out (2005) and Firth of Clyde (1980) by Peter Kennard

Thus John Constable’s bucolic Hay Wain has a trio of Cruise missiles ready for launch, a monochrome Trident submarine looms out of what initially appears to be a banal colour postcard, the world mutates into a gas mask and, Transformers-like, a tank is reconstructed as a digger.

“I want to encourage people to think about their own situation and activate”, Kennard has said. “But I’m not trying to tell them to do this or that. I’m just trying to show how I see the world at the moment.”

How he’d like it to be transformed is memorably represented in the image Warhead, where a nuclear missile is decapitated by the CND symbol. A familiar sight on anti-war demonstrations, its brilliant visual economy in representing what the campaign is all about six decades on demonstrates why Kennard remains such a potent recruiting sergeant for the peace movement.

The exhibition, which is free, runs until October 7, opening times: museums-sheffield.org.uk.

American cartoonist censored for criticizing Trump, racism

This video from the USA says about itself:

Political Cartoonist Censored By Right-Wing Editor

9 June 2018

The work of Rob Rogers, longtime political cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has been notably absent from his paper’s opinion page during this past week. Aside from a cartoon criticizing the trade war posted on Tuesday, June 5, the most recent of Rogers’ drawings appeared last Thursday, May 24.

So where was Rogers all of last week? He did not simply “have the day off”, as printed in last Tuesday’s issue of the Post-Gazette.

Keith Burris, the Post-Gazette’s editorial director since March, when it merged its editorial board with the co-owned Toledo Blade, refused to publish six of Rogers’ cartoons in a row. Four were directly critical of President Donald Trump, and two alluded to racism.

Read more here.

Trump: An American Dream, the four-part television series released in Britain last year and now streaming on Netflix, is a devastating portrait of the current president of the United States. It raises crucial issues about the experiences and lessons of the past 50 years, which have witnessed the accelerating decline of American capitalism on the world arena. It depicts the swamp of financial speculation, capitalist politics and degraded culture out of which Trump emerged to claim the US presidency: here.

German, Austrian 1930s art exhibition in New York

This video from the USA says about itself:

5 May 2018

In landscapes, portraits and still lifes, German and Austrian artists from the 1930s through the outbreak of World War II risked their lives camouflaging heavy political symbols into conventional art forms. Now, “Before the Fall”, an exhibit at New York City’s Neue Galerie, unmasks messages of anxiety, resistance or support that the artists disguised. NewsHour Weekend’s Ivette Feliciano reports.

By Fred Mazelis in the USA:

Before the Fall: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s on view in New York City

26 May 2018

Before the Fall: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s is a riveting and thought-provoking exhibition on view through May 28 at New York City’s Neue Galerie, the small but important museum that is a fairly recent (2001) addition to New York’s “Museum Mile” on Fifth Avenue, home to the Metropolitan, the Guggenheim and numerous other world-renowned institutions.

The current show is the last in a trilogy that began at the Neue Galerie several years ago with two other, equally fascinating exhibitions, the first one entitled, Degenerate Art: the Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, which was followed by Berlin Metropolis: 1918-1933. All three shows have been curated by Olaf Peters, a professor at the Martin-Luther-Universität in Halle, Germany.

The current exhibition includes the work of some less well-known artists compared to its predecessors. It also features work from a somewhat later period than the earlier shows—paintings, prints and photographs from either just prior to or during the era of the Third Reich.

A few of these artists could perhaps be placed in a category similar to the “forgotten composers” who lost their lives or whose careers suffered because of the Holocaust. Most included in this exhibition, however, survived the war, and only a few were Jewish. In fact, there are a handful of artists here who were Nazis themselves, or at any rate joined the Nazi Party. Even among some who opposed fascism, however, their prospects for an international reputation suffered as a result of the upheavals of the 1930s and 1940s.

Max Beckmann, 1922

The timeliness of this work, produced as it was in the shadow of Hitler’s dictatorship, hardly needs restating in the context of the current social and political crisis on both sides of the Atlantic. Indeed, the Neue Galerie exhibitions are only a few of many devoted to art in or affected by the Nazi era in the last few years. There is also a show currently on view in the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts dealing with art in Germany in the immediate post-World War II period.

The roughly 150 works at the Neue Galerie are grouped primarily by genre, with separate sections devoted to still lifes, individuals and portraiture, society, and landscapes. There are other sections of photographs and works on paper.

Max Beckmann, Self-Portrait with Horn (1938)

The well-known names include Max Beckmann, Oskar Kokoschka and Otto Dix, anti-Nazis who survived the war, Beckmann and Kokoschka in exile and Dix inside Germany. Beckmann (1884-1950) is represented by, among several works, his famous Self-Portrait with Horn, from 1938, a year after he had gone into exile in Amsterdam. The artist had been labeled a “cultural Bolshevik” by the Nazis, and was dismissed from his teaching position in 1933. In this, one of many of his self-portraits, Beckmann looks out at the viewer with a lonely and depressed expression, having just issued a call, apparently with no response, on his horn. He is clearly thinking of the circumstances that led to his departure from the land of his birth. The premonition of disaster is unmistakable, and not only in retrospect.

Otto Dix (1891-1969) remained in Germany throughout the period in question. A devoted Nietzschean initially enthused by the prospect of war, Dix enlisted in the German army in World War I. He took part in the Battle of the Somme and experienced other horrors that left him traumatized. In the 1920s his name was often linked to that of George Grosz, the equally famous painter whose work depicted the corruption, crisis and inequality of the Weimar years.

Otto Dix, Mother and Eva (1935)

The Nazis labeled Dix a “degenerate artist” and are later thought to have burned or otherwise destroyed some of his paintings. He survived the period largely by adapting and softening his earlier style without completely abandoning it. One of several paintings of his in the current exhibition is Mother and Eva, from 1935. It depicts Dix’s mother and his niece, in a moving scene summoning up the cycle of life itself. The mother’s aged features resemble the tree she sits in front of, while the blond girl sits at her feet. The somber quality of the mother, in particular, certainly did not mesh with the aesthetic values of the Nazi regime.

Otto Dix, 1925-26 (Photograph by August Sander)

There are numerous lesser-known artists in the exhibit. Some of their work is interesting from a historical or art-historical standpoint, and some deserves to be far better known. The artists include some who, although opposed to the fascists, chose not to go into exile. Some, like Dix during this period, sought to survive without openly accommodating themselves to the regime.

Among others who tried to adapt somewhat was Karl Volker (1889-1962). After being labeled “degenerate”, Volker did little work until after the war. The Neue Galerie exhibition does include his Autumn Landscape, however, dealing with what the curator calls a “safe subject,” compared to his work during the 1920s, which focused more on industrial and urban scenes.

Rudolf Wacker, Damaged Head (1934)

Among many other artists represented are Rudolf Wacker (1893-1939), Karl Hubbuch (1891-1979) and Hanns Ludwig Katz (1882-1940). Wacker’s Damaged Head, from 1934, evokes the dislocation, chaos and tragedy in the year after Hitler became Chancellor. Like many of the other artists, Wacker began his career as an expressionist but later turned away from what was regarded as the too-inward looking character of that school. Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) instead looked to a revived realism and the need for political and social engagement. Wacker was arrested and brutally tortured in 1938. He was subsequently released, but died a year later.

Hubbuch was known for his left-wing views. He was one of the artists included in a 1925 exhibition that marked the unofficial launching of Neue Sachlichkeit. His 1934 painting, Children Under the Stones, is remarkable for its depiction of the virtual state of barbarism descending on Germany. One of the children in this work, at the very center, bears a resemblance to Hitler himself. Hubbuch was also dismissed from his teaching post, and this painting was done in secret.

Hanns Ludwig Katz is one of the few Jewish artists represented in the exhibit. Katz emigrated to South Africa as the Holocaust loomed, but died soon after. His painting, Eye Operation (1929), is an unusual self-portrait, in which ocular surgery also evokes the agony of the current political moment.

There are many other works of note on display. Among them is Wien, a series of 22 linocuts by the Austrian artist Wilhelm Traeger (1907-1980). This work, done when the artist was only 25, shows a series of street scenes in the Viennese capital during the Depression and shortly before the victory of the Nazis in Germany. In Wien we see the world of the unemployed and the lumpenproletariat, the prostitutes, war wounded, and beggars. The depictions of abject poverty alongside the conspicuous display of wealth are reminiscent of the work of Grosz and other ruthless realists of the time.

Felix Nussbaum, Self-Portrait in the Camp (1940)

The small room in the exhibition devoted to works on paper is a high point. Here we see the work of some of the most politically committed of the artists, including a number who died in Auschwitz. Felix Nussbaum (1904-44) went into exile after Hitler came to power, but was arrested in Belgium in 1940. After escaping, he went back into hiding but was rearrested along with his wife, and murdered at Auschwitz in 1944. Nussbaum is represented in the exhibition by Self-Portrait in the Camp, a hauntingly expressive painting from 1940. The artist stares defiantly from the canvas, his expression somber but not defeated. Much of Nussbaum’s surviving work is exhibited in the Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück, Germany, his hometown.

Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück, Germany

Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898-1944) was a Communist Party member whose painting Interrogation II (1934-35) combines figuration and abstraction to convey the horror and brutality of her torture at the hands of the Nazis in 1933. Born in Vienna, Dicker-Brandeis taught at the Weimar Bauhaus from 1919-1923. She later worked in Berlin and Prague. She was arrested in Prague and sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in late 1942, and later to Auschwitz, where she also perished.

Other valuable work in this section of the exhibition includes The End of the Song, a print by A. Paul Weber, in which a human skeleton playing the cello appropriately signifies the impact of fascist barbarism on culture and on life. Erwin Blumenfeld’s gelatin silver print, Hitler, from 1932, depicts the Führer with blood oozing from his mouth and eyes.

The artists reacted in different ways to the catastrophe facing culture and society. Some were forced into silence. The most courageous among them sought to continue to influence the world around them. The Neue Galerie’s Before the Fall focuses attention on the unresolved questions of the 20th century, and the dangers of chauvinism, xenophobia and fascism. There is a tragic element to this exhibition, but it also pressingly points toward the need for a deeper engagement by the artists, and not only the artists, with historical questions and social life.

Ice Age art animal depiction and autism

This is a drawing of a horse by Nadia, a gifted autistic child artist (left) and by a typically developing child of the same age (right). Credit: Penny Spikins, University of York, England

This is a drawing of a horse by Nadia, a gifted autistic child artist (left) and by a typically developing child of the same age (right). Credit: Penny Spikins, University of York, England.

From the University of York:

How our ancestors with autistic traits led a revolution in Ice Age art

The ability to focus on detail, a common trait among people with autism, allowed realism to flourish in Ice Age art, according to researchers at the University of York.

Around 30,000 years ago realistic art suddenly flourished in Europe. Extremely accurate depictions of bears, bison, horses and lions decorate the walls of Ice Age archaeological sites such as Chauvet Cave in southern France.

Why our ice age ancestors created exceptionally realistic art rather than the very simple or stylised art of earlier modern humans has long perplexed researchers.

Many have argued that psychotropic drugs were behind the detailed illustrations. The popular idea that drugs might make people better at art led to a number of ethically-dubious studies in the 60s where participants were given art materials and LSD.

The authors of the new study discount that theory, arguing instead that individuals with “detail focus”, a trait linked to autism, kicked off an artistic movement that led to the proliferation of realistic cave drawings across Europe.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Penny Spikins from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said: “Detail focus is what determines whether you can draw realistically; you need it in order to be a talented realistic artist. This trait is found very commonly in people with autism and rarely occurs in people without it.

“We looked at the evidence from studies attempting to identify a link between artistic talent and drug use, and found that drugs can only serve to dis-inhibit individuals with a pre-existing ability. The idea that people with a high degree of detail focus, many of which may have had autism, set a trend for extreme realism in ice age art is a more convincing explanation.”

The research adds to a growing body of evidence that people with autistic traits played an important role in human evolution.

Dr Spikins added: “Individuals with this trait — both those who would be diagnosed with autism in the modern day and those that wouldn’t — likely played an important part in human evolution and survival as we colonised Europe.

“As well as contributing to early culture, people with the attention to detail needed to paint realistic art would also have had the focus to create complex tools from materials such as bone, rock and wood. These skills became increasingly important in enabling us to adapt to the harsh environments we encountered in Europe.”

Danish artist Per Kirkeby, RIP

On 9 May 2018, Danish artist Per Kirkeby died. This video says about him:

Per Kirkeby Interview: We build upon ruins

Find out why this renowned artist destroys his own paintings if they are too beautiful. Watch the interview with the acclaimed Danish artist Per Kirkeby, about building art on the ruins of your ideas.

”An ornament is something which repeats itself endlessly. In a way you can say life is like that. It’s an eternal appearance of exactly the same things.” The painter, poet, filmmaker and sculptor Per Kirkeby (b. 1938) is one of the most acclaimed Danish artists today. With a masters in Arctic geology from 1964, Kirkeby’s interest in geology and nature in general, has played a crucial role in his artistic expressions. In this interview Kirkeby talks about how the arrogance of age means that you don’t have to fulfil any expectations any more, not your own, and not other peoples’ expectations: “You don’t have to give a toss.” Kirkeby says. Once you let go of your own expectations, it becomes possible to exceed them. You achieve complete artistic freedom.

“My painting isn’t good until it goes under.” Kirkeby explains. The original intention, the smart and clever beginning, is not enough to make a painting. Beauty is not enough. There must be something more, a structure. You must commit yourself, and risk everything, sacrifice the good, and go through a process of recognition, until something better is created, built upon the ruins of the original idea: “The right structure slowly emerges from the picture.”

Per Kirkeby’s work has been shown at art exhibitions worldwide and are represented in many public collections such as Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Tate Gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA and Centre Pompidou. Kirkeby has been teaching as a professor at the Art Academy in Karlsruhe (1978–89) and Frankfurter Städelschule (1989–2000).

Per Kirkeby was interviewed by Poul Erik Tøjner at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, May 2008.

Camera: Bøje Lomholdt
Edited by: Pernille Bech Christensen and Martin Kogi
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014