Archive for January, 2015

Art is the Permanent Revolution

January 31, 2015

Still image from the film Art is a Permanent Revolution


Frans Masereel, Otto Dix, Honoré Daumier, Käthe Kollwitz, Goya, Pablo Picasso, George Grosz and others all are referenced in this documentary film, Art is…the Permanent Revolution.  I saw it last night and thought it was quite good.  It chronicles the history of the “fighting printer.”  The artist protests. They respond to events by making prints. Some end up being shunned, imprisoned or killed.

Etcher Sigmund Abeles, lithographer Ann Chernow, woodcutter Paul Marcus and master printer James Reed are featured “in the present day.”  It’s recent at least, as this film came out in 2012.

Because I’m an artist myself, it was interesting to see the printing processes.  They go through a lot of the details and explain how they are done.

Most of the historical images aren’t identified in the film proper.  They are in a bonus feature on the DVD.  I may write more about this film later, after a few more viewings.

I may have more to say about the Charlie Hebdo killings too. Yet maybe this post,  and the articles that I chose to link to here will be enough.


I recently saw the old World War Two film 49th Parallel from 1941.  In one scene the character played by Leslie Howard has his Picasso and Matisse paintings, a book by Thomas Mann and his own notes all destroyed by a pair of Nazis!  The “enlightened man” is forced to respond to the anti-art forces, culture under the boot of the fascist.  He ends up knocking one of them down.

If you want to see a related video clip click onto this site, then onto “Savage Tribal Methods”


There’s a tradition of protest that enters into satire.  Making fun of everything can be subversive, in and of itself.  Witness the work of people like Tex Avery.  His work, like much of Hollywood, is laced with humor which veers into racism and misogyny at times.  Avery has a “no-holds-barred” approach and his work is screamingly funny.

Even old cartoons can be tough for the sensitive to view.  It’s not just cartoons.  Hundreds of movies have displayed similar material. Strange and troubling images, dialogue and sequences appear again and again.

Tex Avery is just an obvious example.   I love his work.  He goes too far.  Some of this excess is great.  Yet some gags can disgust or upset the modern viewer.

There’s the excuse that they were attacking everything.  All types of institutions, people and ethnic groups were mocked and kidded.  Yet there’s a fine line between doing so in a way which seems OK today and doing so in a way which makes most of us cringe.  In the 1960’s, some started to push things even further, mainly in cinema and underground comics.


That tradition continued at the Charlie Hebdo magazine.  They go after everything and everyone and aren’t afraid to offend people.

Satire usually doesn’t get to be so dangerous.  Eleven people were killed.  Four of them were cartoonists. One of the cartoonists had been working since 1954.  Another started in the 1960’s.  They were very well-known in France.

Artists can still be slaughtered because of their art!  It’s a horrible thing, to be sure.  Let’s hope that nothing like this happens again for a long, long time.

Juan Cole on the Charlie Hebdo attacks:

Noam Chomsky on the Charlie Hebdo attacks:—Fill-in-the-Blank-20150110-0021.html

The Guardian:

The New Yorker: