Art for the 99 Percent

"Social Justice: It Happens to One It Happens to All" runs through Dec. 11 at Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art.


Published:

Eric Almanza's "In Search of a New Home."

During the Great Depression, one of Ben Shahn’s wealthy Fifth Avenue collectors confided to him that if revolution came, his painting, prominently displayed, might save the mansion from destruction. The threat of mob fury is in the air once more, but not invoked by radicals this time; rather, by cynical keepers of the status quo.

Social Justice: It Happens to One It Happens to All, a show curated by Karen Gutfreund and Sherri Cornett of Gutfreund Cornett Art in San Jose, takes a decidedly progressive, communitarian stance concerning our current sociopolitical malheur (pardon the ornithological term). Featuring the onsite work of 43 artists, plus a slide show of the work of another 46, and enlisting women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke as a special juror, it’s ambitious, timely, and important.

The curatorial statement lays out the agenda: “conditions of the working class, disparities in global wealth, power, education, shelter, access to food, water and health services, immigration issues, criminal (in)justice, women’s rights, subjugating ethnic groups and the gender queer in the modern world.” Three works were given awards by Sandra Fluke: Justyne Fischer’s woodcut, The Sunshine State, memorializing the black  victims of Florida racism, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis; Maru Hoeber’s porcelain sculpture, Flight, depicting anonymous immigrants escaping oppression in a seedpod-like boat; and Nancy Ohanian’s digital print, EPA Regulation, assailing the polluted drinking water of Flint, Mich.

Other notable works include Gary Aagard’s digital collage, Can You Hear Me Now, with a young woman intent on her cellphone signal in the midst of world disasters; Eric Almanza’s oil painting, In Search of a New Home, depicting a Mexican family climbing the existing border wall as a helicopter looms in the distance; Priscilla Otani’s installation, Pleasure Quarters, which I take to be about the limited lives of women in many cultures; and, finally, for those who worry about the economic costs of the deplorable vote, San Tague’s photo, Justice Will Prevail, a greenback dollar folded to reveal another convenient untruth about the state of national denial. A printed catalogue is available at the gallery and at createspace.com.

Social Justice: It Happens to One It Happens to All runs through Dec. 11; Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art, 1928 Saint Mary’s Road, Moraga,  925-631-4379; StMarys-ca.edu.

 

Published online on Nov. 9, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

This report was published in the November edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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