Alternative Focus #7: Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art Gallery

What IS ‘the Political’ in Art & Why have We not been Seeing More of It?: Reflections on the ‘Mission’ of Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art Gallery

“Art has its own power in the world, and is as much a force in the power play of global politics of today as it once was in the arena of Cold War politics.”—Boris Groys, Art Power (Cambridge MA/London: MIT, 2008), publisher’s overview.

NOW UP: Summer show “Responsible Art: The Drawings of Anatol Zukerman,” 1300 13th St NW, suite 105; 202/638-3612; weekends 1-6 pm and by app’t.

Charles Krause has a noble, idealistic and almost obsessively all-encompassing idea that motivates him, and not only did it lead him in 2011 to found the new gallery Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art at Logan Circle; but this project both creatively synthesizes his remarkably successful previous career as an award-winning journalist and foreign reporter with his ongoing involvement with art collecting, while it inherently raises questions about the relationship(s) between art and politics at a crucial moment when many are particularly frustrated with our government’s dysfunction. If we take a look through Krause’s view of his own undertaking as well as consider what he has already accomplished with a series of exhibitions—each showing different ways in which visual art can have and has had a direct political impact (or politics an impact on it)—we are naturally led in turn to ponder the many complex ways these domains interact at present, have interacted in the past, and might be projected to in the future. This utopian lattermost question is implicitly posed by Krause/Reporting Fine Art’s activities in general; and its show “Defining the Art of Social and Political Change” (now in conception, slated for Winter 2013-14) might be seen as an explicit answer to it.

Lapin Zhdanov opening, May 7 2012, Charles Krause listens to Janna Bullock

Krause’s “Mission Statement” is specific, and reminds one fittingly enough of some previous twentieth-century self-consciously avant-garde movements’ manifestos—such as those of Surrealism, Futurism and Constructivism—in its vehement taking up of an ideological position vis-à-vis artistic activity. He writes: “By showing the work of artists who have sought to influence, or who have been influenced by, the great social and political upheavals of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, I hope to influence the way their art is viewed, understood and valued by museum curators, art historians, art critics and collectors throughout the world.” In this programmatic approach to being an art dealer, and particularly in focusing on this one sort or aspect of Modern and Contemporary art, Krause is certainly—with the possible exception of Jack Rasmussen’s curatorial orientation at American University’s Katzen Center, where multiple shows are often up simultaneously and a certain percentage of them have political content—unique on the Washington scene; while comparable efforts even in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles are slow to summon to mind. And this socially-aware attitude within the not-infrequently aestheticist museum world in the nation’s capitol, which at the moment arguably sets the bar for the whole artworld here with respect to exhibiting Modern and Contemporary art, only seems  to appear say at moments on the Hirshhorn’s calendar (i.e. Ai Weiwei).

Charles Krause’s argument is that in fact “the political” has been frequently suppressed in the presentation and interpretation of twentieth- and twenty-first century art history: pointing for example to the post-McCarthy era’s avoidance of reference to it in Abstract Expressionist painting; and bringing up the case of Boris Lurie’s co-founding of the “NO!” art movement in 1959, in response to what that artist interpreted as the hedonistic apoliticism of Andy Warhol’s work (which of course has been subsequently understood otherwise by European historians, who view him as being as subversive as Joseph Beuys, and gay subculture researchers seeing him as a pioneer critic of social mores). But the crux of the matter is, for Krause, that art involving or revolving around overtly or directly political subject matter has not been given adequate air time—and this is a lack he would like to as it were “correct” with his gallery’s program of shows as well as his lobbying for such politically engaged Contemporary art on the whole. While the nature of the art-and-politics relations paradigm Krause ascribes to is thus an entirely direct one, it brings his conception into relief to set it into the context of various ways existing discourses have art relating to “the political.”

Jerzy Janiszewski, Gazeta, 1995, collage, 19.5” x 23.5.

If we look at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art’s director’s past, it makes perfect sense and even seems virtually preordained he would eventually open a gallery devoted to overtly political art. Coming from a Detroit family that collected Modern and Contemporary art on a serious level and attending Cranbrook Prep (with the adjacency of that famous Design School), Krause ended up studying political science at the University of Pennsylvania after he became disillusioned with the Architecture Department there, at the same time as rising through the ranks to become Editor-in-Chief of the college newspaper. Following graduation he logically went into journalism, working as “foreign correspondent for The Washington Post, CBS News, and PBS’s ‘The Newshour with Jim Lehrer’” (to cite the gallery’s online background text), sent “on assignment [to] Latin America, Central Europe, Russia, Asia, and the Middle East… His reporting earned him an Emmy for his reports from Israel and the Middle East (1997), the Latin American Studies Association Media Award for his Central American Coverage (1987), and the Overseas Press Club’s Hal Boyle Award for his reporting from Jonestown, where he was shot and wounded while on assignment for The Washington Post (1978).” Further, “His book, Guyana Massacre: The Eyewitness Account, [a book hammered together in a short period of time along with Post colleagues], was a best-seller and adapted for television by CBS” into a miniseries “Broadcast in 1980, ‘Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.’” Subsequently Krause shifted to television broadcasting, where at a point he saw his desire to become a news anchor at PBS was not going to be realized, and decided to leave journalism. The transition was to an international public relations and communications firm called APCO Worldwide, as Krause has related to The Pennsylvania Gazette’s Samuel Hughes (in Penn’s alumni magazine issue of Jan.-Feb. 2013), which of course prepared him altogether relevantly for the planning of media events and disseminating information to the public. Astonishingly enough, all along the way Krause was also ferreting out and purchasing artworks in the course of his career—as he moved through Russia and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South America and Africa—accumulating a collection that he, in retrospect, grasped documented the “social and political change” he had been reporting about. Or as Krause put it in a series of recent conversations (April-May 2013), these works were artistic distillations of historical moments in time which would then be swept away by the very “upheavals” they were responding to or even involved in generating. Hence he developed the idea of opening a gallery devoted to showing and publicizing such art, intending with each of his (one might say) “exhibition interventions” to: encourage these and other like artists, develop or discover an audience for their work, ultimately influence museum curatorial opinion and the art historical record, further the causes or highlight the issues they have to do with, and perhaps have an impact on real-world politics.

First imprint of Solidarity logo, signed by Lech Walesa and other leaders of shipyard strike committee (silkscreen, approx 12"x18"), 1980

It is a tall order, and looking at Charles Krause Reporting/Fine Art’s exhibitions to date as well as its projected shows makes possible seeing how things are going, as its director’s plans evolve. So far five in number, they have covered a range of work not just referencing but also involved in political events and socio-political themes: beginning with “The Graphic and Fine Art of Poland’s Jerzy Janiszewski: The Artist Whose Graphic Design Changed History” in Dec. 2012-Jan. 2013, which included the crucial image of the logo generated by the Solidarity movement in 1980 first rallying the Gdansk shipyard workers against Communist control, signed by Lech Walesa and his Strike Committee. Media response to that opening show was positive: with its being among Artforum’s “Critics Pick,” chosen as one of the “10 Best Gallery Exhibitions” of 2012 by The Washington Post, and its opening night was covered by Bloomberg/Businessweek. It is admittedly the lattermost review, titled “Washington’s Elite Gather at New Gallery, Ogle Solidarity Icon” (Indira A. R. Lakshmanan, 13 Dec. 2011), which prompts some thought about the potential incongruence of anti-Communist icons being exhibited to the upper-crust glitterati, whose sincere investment in the nitty-gritty political events these relics stand for might be called into question by some.

Flamenco Dancer/Emma Liekari (Archival C print, 39"x51") 2011 copyright Duvteatern

That thin line between publicity coup and political engagement was a little differently and more convincingly walked in Krause Fine Art’s second exhibition, “Duva/Diva: Duvteatern’s Glorious ‘Carmen’: Photographs by Stefan Bremer”—a suite of digital C prints documenting actors and actresses with Down Syndrome or other intellectual disabilities playing in a Finnish National Opera adaptation of the Bizet theatrical extravaganza. Not only are these people portrayed in lavish costumes and as possessing their own kind of beauty, but in the case of this show its financial arrangements entailed 50% of the sales profits going to support the Helsinki non-profit theater group that had co-produced it; while the Diane Arbus-reminiscent treatment of what might in the past have been approached as physio-psychological “freaks” sympathetically portrayed as fascinating made its own socially-relevant statement. And the opening of the gallery’s third show was even consciously timed to coincide with the third re-election of Vladimir Putin (on 7 May 2012) as President of the Russian Federation which succeeded the former Soviet Union, thereby underscoring the probably continuing present-tense relevance of its Cold War liberationist theme. Titled “Lest We Forget: Masters of Soviet Dissent,” it presented the work of Russian dissident artist Alexander Zhdanov paired with that of the Estonian Leonhard Lapin; while speakers at the accompanying presentation comparing the 1970s and 80s with today’s Russia as far as freedom of expression is concerned included: President of the National Endowment for Democracy Carl Gershman, Alexey Semyonov who heads the Andrei Sakharov Foundation and Archive, and the author of Reading Lolita in Teheran Azar Nafisi (on the over-arching topic of creative artists working against cultural suppression within authoritarian political regimes and/or theocracies).

Alexander Zhdanov -Untitled (pen and ink drawing, 22.34" x 34.61") 1987

In turn, Krause Fine Art’s fourth exhibition—appropriately enough given part of its underlying message had to do with the contribution its émigré participants make to the cultural fabric of the United States, and how foreign immigrants in general are treated in the U.S. (given current regulations and policies which have them constantly in fear of expulsion, despite the fact that this country was in fact initially and continues to be composed in “melting pot” fashion by residents from other countries which enrich it, if no longer perhaps as “integrated” as they may have previously been)—presented the work of a Chilean immigrant artist. Titled “HIDDEN TREASURE: The ‘America’ and ‘Tierra del Fuego’ Paintings of Joan Belmar,” called that since the painter had literally been keeping them covertly stored in his basement and dug them out upon Krause’s insistence (hence they had been hidden from view), intentionally and specifically charted how “A Major American Artist emerges from the U.S. Latino Immigrant Community” (as the invitation read). But it was perhaps the gallery’s fifth show which most succinctly and in an altogether timely fashion intervened in current political issues and social events: “The Newtown Project: A Call to Arms” (adorned with a “NO” that had crosshairs in its second letter): involving putting out an open call for art that responded or spoke to that mass shooting of 26 children in their elementary school in Connecticut the previous month, from which a jury selected the best.

Joan Belmar, "Hegemony #2," Acrylic and oil on paper, 30”x 22”, 2005

That exhibition was up at Krause/Reporting Fine Art Jan.-Feb. 2013, then in expanded form transferred to the socially- and community-engaged First Congregational United Church of Christ at 10th and G Streets NW under a different title, “Art Targets>Guns,” in April-May. With respect to both showings, the financial structure was also conceived to directly benefit gun-control and the political movement around an effort to influence regulatory legislation: with one-third of the proceeds from any work’s sale going to its artist, and the other two-thirds donated to organizations advocating gun regulation. As Krause explained in an email of June 5th in response to my queries, “I did not want to be accused of profiting from the Newtown tragedy;” and as one result this pair of exhibitions functioned both artistically as statements in response to an historical event, and financially as a charity to benefit the cause of fighting against it or similar horrors’ recurrence. And while there will be two other shows in the interim, with the next sixth one this Summer called “Responsible Art: Drawings by Anatol Zukerman” to open June 30th, it is a projected eighth exhibition to take place in Winter 2013-14 that will be most crucial to Krause/Reporting Fine Art’s agenda. This show is to be titled “Defining the Art of Social and Political Change,” and is viewed by the gallery’s founder/director as constituting a “distillation of [his] mission,” to be accompanied by a catalogue he hopes will be a reference “Bible” on its subject. Where does all of this conceptualization and accomplishment leave us exactly? This aspiring so far in-part commercial enterprise is operating in a space between art and politics, or rather at the point they intersect with one another: a position that can probably best be brought into focus or relief by situating it briefly within or with respect to existing discourses about relations between art and politics, the political in art, art viewed as being political, or the product of particular social and political generating contexts. Certainly the flip-flop slash embedded in this gallery’s moniker—Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art—in effect conveys its owner is still “reporting,” only now on the political in art rather than in real life, though he believes and values that artists have a different “take” on or intellectual relation to reality than most other people. Yet looming in the background here is also admittedly the role model of an old-school art dealer like Serge Sabarsky, who sold works to Krause’s family and made Viennese turn-of-the-century Secession artists like Gustave Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele canonic names. Krause speaks of the enormous impact galleries and dealers have had in shaping art history and what is considered important art in retrospect, assumedly to some degree himself aspiring to such significance while arguing gallerists’ role has often been under-appreciated. So reporter/dealer sets out, seeking both a prominence and important work involved in political change.

Michael D’Antuono, “Brought to you by the NRA” (oil on canvas, 30”x40”), 2013

While in fact there may be some exceptions to Krause’s premise that his is an isolated undertaking, or that galleries as well as museum exhibitions devoted to “the political in art” are exceptions or few and far between: they may not be easy to find but a few recent examples can be cited. Among the former would be Transmission Gallery in West Oakland CA, whose show “Unrestricted” was reported on by Oakland North newspaper’s online version in an article of 5 Oct. 2012 by Ashley Griffin. Previously, The Washington Post’s art critic at that time, Blake Gopnik, filed a review from NYC (dated 18 Nov. 2010) about a group of galleries, titled “New York Galleries Focus on Politically Oriented Collections”: among those were Simon Preston, Postmasters, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Gagosian (at that time showing Anselm Kiefer), Luhring Augustine, and Murray Guy. Further, MOCA’s—Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles—website presents their exhibition “Collection: MOCA’s First 30 Years,” whose catalogue’s lead essay “Political Art” defines its subject as follows: “In current usage, political art refers to works with overtly political subjects made to express criticism of the status quo.”, following that lead-in with a list of about two dozen (by any count a conservative number) who are thought to qualify as such. And since Klaus Biesenbach’s having taken over as Chief Curator at MoMA, and particularly judging from his focus as its P.S.1 affiliate’s Director, that museum’s coverage has shifted towards a politics/art-related stance. Shows he mounted included the anti-apartheid South African filmmaker William Kentridge (2010) and “Mexico City: An Exhibition about the Exchange Rate of Bodies and Values” (2002); while Biesenbach also turned the Queens venue into a temporary shelter for victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Finally, there are organizations devoted solely to this relation: such as the Center for Art and Politics based in Amsterdam, and the Centre for Contemporary Art & Politics at the University of New South Wales. This qualification could be further expanded by bringing in periodicals explicitly dealing with such issues, such as The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest; or recent relevant publications like Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011 (MIT Press/NY: Creative Time, 2012) edited by Nato Thompson—who also has organized shows (“Democracy in America: The National Campaign,” 2008) at Creative Time in NYC relating to current art/politics—to whom we will return.

Brian Petro, "hello, my name is" from “Target” series, 2012, thermal transfer monoprint shot by artist with 22 caliber magnum rifle bullets, spray paint and ink on paper.

So shifting gears into our concluding comparative consideration of the wider spectrum of art-and-politics relations, it seems relevant to point out here the usefulness of a viewpoint provided by “social art history”: a methodology which has always thematized artworks and other cultural objects in general as products of given specific economic-historical circumstances: not just reflections but actual embodiments of and participant agents in their generating contexts, embedded in and in turn carrying those period assumptions “readably” within them. It also seems important to frame this discussion by referring specifically to what are considered a pair of the “founding fathers” of this approach to works of art (that not surprisingly evolved within a politically Left-oriented facet of the British academic system, but has since become to some extent a standard premise even in undergraduate surveys), Timothy J. Clark and Thomas Crow. Two of their seminal books shedding light on a social art historical approach to the (admittedly diverse) relationships between art and politics are the former’s The Absolute Bourgeois: Artists and Politics in France, 1848-51 (London: Thames & Hudson, 1973) and the latter’s Painting and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris (New Haven/London: Yale, 1985). Both have written about more recent and Contemporary art, and had generations of students who continue to adapt this intellectual tradition. There was also an influential circle around Benjamin H.D. Buchloh at Columbia (who subsequently moved to Harvard University), with that professor coming initially out of a West German intellectual context where taking such a posture vis-à-vis the conservative university framework there was allied with the “dissident” European student uprisings of the 1960s and 70s. It seems to relate to our present discussion that the strand of Contemporary art, both in Europe and here in the U.S., that most closely allies itself with this analytical stance is called Kontextkunst (literally, “Context Art”): taking as its up-front operating assumption that artworks ARE products of their habitats, seemingly a truism until its artists critically demonstrate or reverse that principle to intervene in them.

Hence given all works can be viewed as “context art” products of their generating environments, social art history sets us up for understanding how “the political” in artworks’ settings might be encoded in them or they embedded in it. Let’s propose a spectrum of such art-and-politics relations, ranging (paradigmatically, for argument’s sake): from art specifically engaged in politics; through art with explicit political subject matter, and art related to politics or social issues; to art critiquing the political or social “status quo” (as MOCA had it above, perhaps the most frequent Contemporary variety), and art that self-consciously reflects its social or political context; finally culminating in art which is focused on explicitly deconstructing or diagramming its own context, in itself to some extent or by implication a critical act. In other words, we move here from the most direct to most indirect (or “encoded,” one might say) relationship between artistic practice and the political realm: a progression which can be mapped in rapid thumbnail fashion to clarify this by flagging a few prominent illustrations of each category along the way, before returning in closing to re-consider Krause/Reporting Fine Art’s project and thereby its position within all this.

For instances of art literally engaged in politics, one need not rack one’s brain as many coincide (not surprisingly) with major political events: to begin with, of course, Jacques-Louis David’s involvement with the French Revolution in the latter end of the eighteenth century (as a marker for which his infamous portrait of the revolutionary hero Marat Assassinated of 1793 can be employed); while as everyone knows, in conjunction with the next crucial political upheaval of the early twentieth-century Russian Revolution a new kind of art was proposed as emblematic of it by its proponents, Constructivism, which was to embody the coming reshaping of everyday life by Communism (and for which Vladimir Tatlin’s iconic architectural Monument to the People of 1917 can readily stand). It is no mistake the former moment in political time coincided, depending upon the interpretation one subscribes to, with the beginning of Modernism in the visual arts, an analogous “revolution” within that realm—with the other option for that artistic watershed’s chronological placement also linked with a political uprising, that of the 1848 Revolution in France, with which the work of Gustave Courbet is indelibly bound up (as T.J. Clark has already told us). To move further along on the relational spectrum and consider art with explicit political subject matter, we can choose an inter-generational pairing to illustrate both that version of art/politics and the fact that it continues along through art history via re-citation. Surely among the most recognizable pieces of artwork for an American audience with an explicitly political subject is Emanuel Gottlieb  Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware of 1851, while that infamous image finds its subsequent send-up in the Abstract Expressionist-generation painter Larry Rivers’ half-finished slap-dash 1953 version of that same theme (now in the Hirshhorn Museum). If we want to remind ourselves, moving along through the spectrum, of what art related to politics or social issues would be or looks like, good choices are: first, the American so-called Ashcan School of the twentieth century’s first two decades, with its portrayals of both lower-class themes as well as scenes associated with urban industrialization (as one saw in the National Gallery of Art’s recent George Bellows retrospective, but also including the work of his colleagues Robert Henri and William Glackens). Or, second, on the European side of the Atlantic at about the same time: German Expressionism, for instance the almost-caricatural facet of Georg Grosz’s oeuvre responding to the savagery of WWI and Weimar’s corrupt political climate populated by wounded amputees. If we consider the category of art critiquing the political and/or social “status quo,” to continue charting this relational continuum’s arc, examples can be drawn from historical as well as contemporary realms: for instance the Vienna Secession movement serving for the former, as it has already been mentioned. Although it may now appear to be innocuously decorative and innocently aestheticist, within its generating turn-of-the-century Austrian setting such lushly eroticized portraits of upper-class women and overtly sexual and/or psychologically disturbing studio nudes affronted and sought to deconstruct a rigidly repressed social order, the same one prompting Sigmund Freud to concoct his theories about neurosis. From the contemporary end, the most explicit iterations of this art-and-politics relationship come from critics of consumerism or of gender relations: Barbara Kruger being a prime exemplar of both. She initially worked as a commercial artist for Conde Nast, then turned its advertising strategies on their heads to construct large-scale installations adapted (both thematically and physically) to their venues, characterized by red banner-texts declaiming viewers’ ostensible presuppositions or subversively aping marketing lingo, combined with overblown retro images. Her career’s defining show in 1983 “We Won’t Play Nature to Your Culture,” London: ICA/Basel Kunsthalle was feminist, with women being “nature.”

We have come, then, almost to the end of the art-and-politics relations’ spectrum, with only two more of its varieties to diagram: and for the first of the last, art that reflects its social and/or political context, it seems apropos to choose two kinds of artistic developments often thought to have little or no relation to their socio-political contexts (or if so, only of a non-critical or even participant nature): the Impressionism exemplified by Monet, and Pop art perpetrated by Andy Warhol. With respect to the former movement of the 1860s and 70s, while it has become a virtual fixture of both Occidental and Asian cultural heritage—perceived as affirming a modern lifestyle of pleasurable outings, sun-dappled landscapes to be enjoyed and French joie-de-vivre—not to forget Impressionism was critically kicked off by Edouard Manet’s impudent Salon blagues (in-jokes), like his infamous 1863 presentation of a common prostitute Olympia as the “new Venus,” in a pose adapted from Titian. In addition, as we know from revisionist surveys such as that edited by Stephen F. Eisenman et al (Nineteenth-Century Art History, London: Thames & Hudson, 1994) among others, his cohorts included Sisley, Pissarro, Caillebotte—they, along with Monet himself, not shrinking from depicting the new railroad making their reaching the suburban/rural locales they painted possible, thus permitting them to document a major environmental shift. Second, although he has appeared above as an apolitical syncophant of U.S. consumerism and celebrity culture, it is impossible to run through an even-brief survey of twentieth-century artists whose work reflects [upon] their social/political context without referencing the critical contribution of Andy Warhol’s Pop art. It is true that some, particularly early American commentators considered the artist’s coming out of advertising culture, such direct borrowing of commodity and popular tabloid imagery, and “decadent” drug-permeated homosexual lifestyle to demarcate a position reinforcing these aspects of U.S. contemporary culture. Yet both from outside the country in Europe and by subsequent generations of American scholars, these interpretations have been modified to the point of virtual reversal: viewing Warhol’s multiplication of imagery, employment of cheap reproduction techniques (not even always by himself, hence critiquing an auteur mythology as passé) or over-the-top reflection back to an audience of its own superficial preoccupations as critique—in particular by a European viewership steeped in and even somewhat fascinated by such “Americanism” looking back at itself, linking that lifestyle with 60s counter-culture revolution of social mores. There developed French and German Pop versions in response; while a 1999 talk given by this author in Vienna titled “Warhol in the Context of his Artistic Generation: Post-Abstract Expressionist Homosexual Subversion,” dealt with the artist’s self-conscious deconstruction of a preceding Ab-Ex generation’s macho creative personas as well as intentional undermining of a 50s heterosexual ideal.

Leonhard Lapin, Molotov and Ribbentrop from “Conversation of the Signs” series, 1989, silkscreen, 24” x 15.5.”

Finally, we reach the opposite end of our art-and-politics relational spectrum and arrive at what might be considered its most indirect or “encoded” variety: art focused explicitly (though all Modern- and Post-Modern artistic practice can in a sense be viewed as doing this in response to preceding art) on deconstructing its own context, or critiquing the conditions underlying its very production and/or reception. While this may seem a long way from “politics” in any strict straightforward sense, and this category or variety of art’s relationship with it is admittedly the most hermetic or “aestheticist” of all of the preceding possibilities, this is arguably also the most radical from an operational point of view. Despite there being so many possible illustrations one might refer to here as to defy choosing, it makes most sense to employ the partly parallel and partly sequential movements of Minimalism and Conceptualism in the 1970s and 80s. This is because in the case of the former, predominantly sculpture was reduced to its most basic often geometric components or elements so that the viewer was made aware of both those relation to the exhibition space, and their own changing bodily/visual position vis-à-vis the artwork in moving around it. In the instance of Conceptualism, the latter equally-important development, the artwork as an object was essentially abandoned or dematerialized into a set of statements, definitions, or directions for execution of something thereby deemed a piece of art. What is in effect radical about these and relevant to the present discussion of art-and-politics relations is these works are deconstructing the conceptual structure supporting or defining them as art: calling into question their separation from “everyday life” and implicitly mapping an interventional strategy. Given there is such a history to this relationship and a wide spectrum of positions having been played out within it, so that even if one construes it to involve only direct and contemporary interaction between the realms of political issues or events and artistic practice (and vice-versa), one would hope an awareness of this complexity would inform the continuation of Krause/Reporting Fine Art’s program into the immediate future, since its quite original foray into the currently daunting endeavor of art dealing seems altogether promising to date. In any case, there can be suggested to be hope on the horizon for its stated project: in response to being questioned in a 31 Aug. 2012 “Art and Politics—A Survey: Part I” conducted by the online blog of frieze Publishing (which has brought us the eponymous London art fair as well as magazine), Chief Curator of the exhibition space Creative Time in New York, Nato Thompson (whom we have already met above) responded as follows to the two here quite relevant questions posed him:

“Do you think there has been a resurgence in political art?” “… If we are discussing whether there has been a resurgence of artists interested in using culture to affect the world around them, I would say certainly… ultimately cultural production is an integral part of the fabric of political life today and thus it would make sense that culture makers are participating in this arena. If we asked the question, has there been a resurgence of art in politics, the answer would most definitely be a yes…”

“Do you think it is effective to make political work that functions within the art world, or is that simply preaching to the converted?” “… For very obvious reasons, the arts in general reflect the conservative logic of their underlying economic values. Most of it is propped up by the basic needs and logic of the gallery system… That said there are pockets that somehow can shirk that complication enough to appreciate that the values and contributions of culture makers can speak to the concerns of everyday life. That is to say, the arts need not be a field unto themselves. Since culture is the language of the production of power, it would make sense that those who think of themselves as culture makers should participate vocally in these structures.”

These seem like assertions that Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art’s agenda and activities would second; and as the gallery’s founder/director said to me recently on the phone, it is “a work in progress” whose evaluation can only end in more questions versus a “conclusion,” and whose further evolution we look forward to.

Julia Bernard (This article is dedicated to my father, theoretical physicist Dr. William Bernard.)

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