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Canvases on a Bonfire

By Lisa Meyerowitz

Featured image

Cover of exhibition catalogue, Violence in Recent American Art, MCA Chicago, Nov 8, 1968–Jan 12, 1969
© MCA Chicago

on violence in recent American art

Recent events and the persistent cycles of violence render me mute. Like many people, I wonder how and when will things change?

In 1968, the MCA’s second year, the museum mounted Violence in Recent American Art. The exhibition tackled the topic head on. Its relevance today is unnerving. Spearheaded by guest curator Robert Glauber, the exhibition addressed the climate of violence in the wake of the Democratic National Convention; the war in Vietnam; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy; as well as riots and counter protests across the United States. Glauber assembled an impressive roster of artists and artworks, identifying five types of violence: war, racial, personal, gun, and psychological.

The press release is an extraordinary statement about the responsibility of artists to confront current events. It could be issued today—with pertinent observations about how the art world can speak out, affect change, and understand the effects of violence on our culture.

Quote

… in Los Angeles painters threw their canvases on a bonfire [as] a poignant protest… . the loss of works of art [was] far less important than the loss of human lives.

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News release for Violence in Recent American Art, Oct 1968
© MCA Chicago

Image

News release for Violence in Recent American Art, Oct 1968
© MCA Chicago

on the exhibition catalogue

Meanwhile, the exhibition catalogue, a 16-page broadside printed on newsprint, was sold for 10 cents a copy. The cover features a collage of newspaper headlines detailing homicides and uprisings across the country, followed by an impassioned foreword by MCA Director Jan van der Marck, who describes an artists’ demonstration in Los Angeles a few years prior, when “painters threw their canvases on a bonfire, a poignant protest of senseless napalm burning in Vietnam.” He continues, “To these artists, the loss of works of art is far less important than the loss of human lives.”

Image of catalogue cover

Cover of exhibition catalogue, Violence! In Recent American Art, MCA Chicago, Nov 8, 1968–Jan 12, 1969
© MCA Chicago

Image of exhibition catalogue page

Exhibition catalogue, Violence in Recent American Art, p. 2, MCA Chicago, Nov 8, 1968–Jan 12, 1969
© MCA Chicago

Image of exhibition catalogue page

Aged and yellowed newsprint with reproductions of two artworks:  Roy Lichtenstein's *Pistol*, 1964, on the lower left; and Andy Warhol's *Elvis II*, 1964, on the upper right.
  1. Long Aged and yellowed newsprint reproductions of two artworks include, on the left: a close-up of a hand holding a pistol aimed directly at the viewer. It is painted in a dot matrix style mimicking comic book aesthetics and known as Roy Lichtenstein's *Pistol*, 1964. The artwork on the right is a reproduced screen print of Elvis Presley dressed as a cowboy wearing a gun holster around his waist with his left hand raised at his side while his right hand holds a gun, ready to shoot as if in a dual. It is known as Andy Warhol's *Elvis II*, 1964.
Exhibition catalogue, Violence in Recent American Art, p. 3, MCA Chicago, Nov 8, 1968–Jan 12, 1969
© MCA Chicago

Image of exhibition catalogue page

Scan of aged and yellowed news print with printed artworks, top center Ralph Arnold's *Unfinished Collage*, 1968 (detail), bottom left Ray Johnson's *Do Not Kill*, 1966 and bottom right Clayton  Pinkerton's *Untitled,* 1968.
Exhibition catalogue, Violence in Recent American Art, p. 8, MCA Chicago, Nov 8, 1968–Jan 12, 1969
© MCA Chicago

Image of exhibition catalogue page

Scan of aged and yellowed news print with printed artworks, top photograph of Andy Warhol's *Race Riot,*1963 and bottom of Peter Holbrook's *Battle of Grant Park*, 1968.
Exhibition catalogue, Violence in Recent American Art, p. 10, MCA Chicago, Nov 8, 1968–Jan 12, 1969
© MCA Chicago

Image of exhibition catalogue page

Aged newsprint lists artworks included in the exhibition, *Violence in Recent American Art*.
  1. Long Aged and yellowed newsprint lists artworks in the exhibition, *Violence in Recent American Art*. Works are listed in alphabetical order by artist and divided into three columns. Headline reads: Checklist of the Exhibition Remaining text reads as follows: 1. Bernard Aptekar A Death Dealer, 1968 Acrylic on masonite and wood 108x60x1 1/2 inches Lent by the artist 2. Bernard Aptekar Blown Apart Fragments and Torso, 1968 Acrylic on masonite and wood 114x80x1 1/2 inches Lent by the artist 3. Ralph Arnold Unfinished Collage, 1968 Collage and acrylic 50x150 inches Benjamin Galleries, Chicago 4. John G. Balsley American Sunday Summer Landscape Series: Fatal Blacktop Version, 1968 Mixed Media 6 feet high Fairweather-Hardin Gallery, Chicago 5. Warrington Colescott The Great Society; Inner Core, 1967 Etching 17 1/2x18 inches Associated American Artists, New York 6. William Copley Drop That Gun, 1960 Oil on canvas 32x39 inches Mr. And Mrs. Leonard J. Horwich, Chicago 7. Dominick DiMeo Victim, 1968 Acrylic on canvas 58x50 inches Fairweather-Hardin Gallery, Chicago 8. Jim Dine Window, 1959 Mixed media 29 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches Gordon Locksley, Minneapolis 9. Jim Dine Drag, 1967 Silkscreen 33 1/2 x 47 1/2 Lo Giudice Gallery, Chicago 10. Rosyln Drexter Sorry About That, 1966 Acrylic on canvas 48x72 inches Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 11. Douglas Edge Malcom X, 1967 Acrylic, polyester resin and wood 18 1/2x4x2 1/2 Gallery 669, Los Angeles 12. Stanley Edwards Smash-up at Tompkins Square Park, 1968 Acrylic on canvas 62x62 inches Fairweather-Hardin Gallery, Chicago 13. Ed Flood She Devil, 1968 Mixed media on plexiglass 6 3/8x8 7/8 inches Lent by artist 14 Peter Holbrook Battle of Grant Park, 1968 Acylic on canvas 54x66 inches Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago 15. Robert Indiana Alabama, 1965 Oil on canvas 72x60" Mr. and Mrs. Walter Netsch, Chicago 16. Ray Johnson Do Not Kill, 1966 Collage 18 1/4x14 7/8 inches Richard Feigen Gallery, New York 17. Paul LaMantia P.C. Looking at TV, 1968 Mixed media on paper 30x40 inches Lent by the artist 18. Ellen Lanyon L.B.J. Doll, 1966 Mixed Media 34x9 inches Mr. and Mrs. Edwin A. Bergman, Chicago 19. Roy Lichtenstein Pistol, 1964 Felt 82x49 inches Lo Giudice Gallery, Chicago 20. Ben Mahmoud Mace and Fracture, 1968 Mixed media drawing 25x27 inches Pro Grafica Arte, Chicago 21. Robert Mallary Parachutist, 1962-63 Polyester and fabric 68x6 1/2x5 inches Mrs. Albert List, New York On long term loan to Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 22. Richard Merkin Notes Toward the Eventual Definition of the Great Lust-Mad Lesbian Nympho Prison Break (For R.K. friend and liberal), 1966 Mixed Media 40x60 inches Obelisk Gallery, Boston and Bryon Gallery, NewYork 23. Robert Andrew Parker Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, 1968 Watercolor 23 3/4x18 3/4 inches Pro Grafica Arte, Chicago 24. Edward Paschke Purple Ritual, 1967 Oil on canvas 48x32 inches Lent by the artist 25. Edward Paschke Tet Inoffensive, 1968 Oil on canvas 38x34 inches Lent by the artist 26. Clayton Pinkerton Messenger, 1968 Acrylic on plexiglass 48x51 inches Arleigh Gallery, San Francisco 27A. Clayton Pinkeron Untitled, 1968 Acrylic on plexiglass 12x12 inches Arleigh Gallery, San Francisco 27B. Clayton Pinkeron Untitled, 1968 Acrylic on plexiglass 12x12 inches Arleigh Gallery, San Francisco 28. Albert Pounian Rain, 1968 Acrylic on canvas 54x30 inches Gilman Gallery, Chicago 29. Joseph Raffael Baggie, Covered Baby, Face, Covered Face, 1967 Oil and mixed media 71x60 inches Stable Gallery, New York 30. Robert Rauschenberg Storyline I, 1968 Color lithograph 17x21 1/2 inches Associated American Artists, New York 31. Robert Rauschenberg Storyline II, 1968 Color lithograph 18x22 inches Associated American Artists, New York 32. Robert Rauschenberg Storyline III, 1968 color lithograph 17 1/2x21 1/2 inches Associated American Artists, New York 33. Robert Rauschenberg Love Zone, 1968 Color lithograph 23x27 inches Associated American Artists, New York 34. Robert Rauschenberg Flower Re-run, 1968 Color lithograph 18 1/2x23 1/2 inches Associated American Artists, New York 35. Robert Rauschenberg Still, 1968 Color lithograph 22x30 inches Associated American Artists, New York 36. Peter Saul Saigon, 1967 Oil on canvas 93x142 inches Allan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago 37. Arthur Secunda Negative Landscape, 1968 Silkscreen 11x15 inches Associated American Artists, New York 38. James Strombotne Reflections on the Assassination of R.F.K., 1968 Oil on canvas 70x60 inches Bertha Schafer Gallery, New York 39. Carol Summers Kill For Peace, 1967 Silkscreen 23x19 inches Associated American Artists, New York 40. Andy Warhol Elvis II, 1964 (Single version) Acrylic and silkscreen enamel on canvas 82x36 inches Private collection, Chicago 42. William Weege Fuck the C.I.A., 1967 Silkscreen on paper on canvas 78 5/8x38 inches Private collection, Chicago 43. William Weege Long Live Life (1984), 1968 Silkscreen and lithograph 88x109 inches Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago 44. William T. Wiley Tori in a Depressed State, I think it's Alabama, 1967 Watercolor on paper 28 3/4x22 3/4 inches Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York 45. William T. Wiley Idle Hands Are the Devil's Workshop II, 1968 Mixed media 47 1/2x48 1/4 Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York 46. William T. Wiley Movement to Black Ball Violence, Hommage to Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968 Tape 23 1/4 inches diameter Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York 47. James Wines Assassin III, 1964 Collage 29 1/2x 19 x1/2 inches Private collection, Chicago 48. Edward Kienholz A Bad Cop, 1966 Mixed Media Construction 50 inches high Dwan Gallery, New York Bottom right corner stamped, reads: Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Chicago, Illinois Permit No. 4633
Exhibition catalogue, Violence in Recent American Art, p. 16, MCA Chicago, Nov 8, 1968–Jan 12, 1969
© MCA Chicago
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