Monday, July 9, 2012
Poster of the Week
!No Olvidemos! A Julius y Ethel Rosenberg
Taller de Gráfica Popular
linocut, Mexico, 1953
In 1999, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Board member Susan Martin and Executive Director Carol Wells invited 100 individuals to select their favorite poster from our collection and write a paragraph about why they chose it. The resulting exhibition was titled, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised after the brilliant 1970 Gil Scott Heron song, and exhibited at Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. The guest curators were artists, activists, curators and writers. They included Ed Asner, Barbara Carrasco, John Baldessari, Maria Elena Durazo, Susan Faludi, Leon Golub, Tom Hayden, Christopher Knight, Barbara Kruger, Victor Navasky, Holly Near, Nancy Spero, Kent Wong, Alfre Woodard and 86 others. More than a decade later, the list remains impressive and the selected posters still relevant, so CSPG’s Poster of the Week will occasionally feature one of these posters and the guest curator’s statement.
The current Poster of the Week was selected in 1999 by Paul Schimmel, the innovative and internationally respected head curator of MoCA for 22 years, who was recently, suddenly and unceremoniously fired. Tom Patchett, founder of Track 16 Gallery and Smart Art Press, selected the same poster. Track 16 opened in 1994, and premiered many important exhibitions, including several by CSPG. Track 16 will soon be demolished to make way for a planned Expo Line Metro stop. They both picked a stunning linocut produced in Mexico after the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953.
The multi-style carving of the woodblock shows Julius and Ethel on different planes. In this divergent graphic treatment, Ethel is a classic "Madonna" — innocent, loving and kind. Contrasting her larger, softer image, the artist has portrayed Julius quite differently: if there was a crime committed, he’s the one that did it. The irony is that today, where it concerns our preferred trading partner — China — the government ignores the spying.
Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art
I chose this poster because Paul Schimmel chose this poster.
Tom Patchett, Track 16 Gallery/Smart Art Press
The Rosenbergs were accused of passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. The case against them was created in an atmosphere of anti-Communism and anti-Semitism. Their accusers included FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Senators Joe McCarthy and Pat McCarran. Although they were never found guilty of any act of espionage, they were convicted and executed for conspiracy to commit espionage during a time of war. Presiding Judge Irving S. Kaufman accused them of having "put the atom bomb into the hands of the Russians," that they had caused the Korean War, and that they had "changed the course of history to the disadvantage of our country." This was the first execution of civilians for espionage in United States history.
The decision to execute the Rosenbergs was, and still is, controversial. The New York Times, in an editorial on the 50th anniversary of the execution (June 19, 2003) wrote, "The Rosenberg case still haunts American history, reminding us of the injustice that can be done when a nation gets caught up in hysteria."