Tag Archives: Red Scare

Yevgeniy Fiks: Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America (New York)

Yevgeniy Fiks’ exhibition, Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America, had been open all of one day before damage from Hurricane Sandy closed the gallery for 10 weeks. All the artwork from the exhibition was safe, though, and we are very pleased to celebrate the reopening of Yevgeniy’s exhibition with a party to celebrate the publication of his new book, Moscow.*

Yevgeniy Fiks
Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America
February 15 – March 16, 2013
Opening Reception and Book Party: Friday, February 15, 2013, 6-8 PM

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America, our third solo exhibition by New York-based artist Yevgeniy Fiks. Taking its title from a 1953 article by the Cold Warrior and pundit Arthur Guy Mathews, this exhibition explores the historical and ideological links between anti-Communism and homophobia in the United States, as well as the intersections between Communism and sexual identity as it played out during the 20th century. Works in the exhibition range from dry factuality to humor, and farce, and posit the 20th century queerness as the shared Other of the Communism-Capitalism dichotomy, while tracing the uneasy yet tangible historical links between the early 20th century Communist activism and the gay rights movement of the second half of the century.

jpeg

The exhibition delves into the interlocking histories of the “Red” and “Lavender” scares during the McCarthy-era, when anti-Communist and anti-gay sentiments were fused together in the Cold War witch-hunt rhetoric. Pundits and government officials went as far as envisioning a sinister conspiracy: the Soviet Union is promoting homosexuality as a tool to destroy America. Concurrently, the federal government purged homosexuals that it employed, calling them “security risks”—vulnerable of being blackmailed by Soviet agents into working for them.  Ironically, in response to and mirroring its ideological enemy, the American Communist Party also purged known gays from its ranks—marking them as “security risks”—for fear that gay Communists were vulnerable to blackmail and could become informants for the Feds. The official charter of the Communist Party USA even before its 1950s anti-gay purge strictly prohibited gays from membership, adhering to the policies of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union where homosexuality was officially criminalized under Stalin and stigmatized as a “capitalist degeneracy.”

Works in the exhibition include Stalin’s Atom Bomb a.k.a. Homosexuality, a series of prints that highlights paranoid anti-communist and anti-gay quotations from American politicians and pundits of the era. Another series, Joe-1 Cruising in Washington, DC includes photographs of a six-foot cutout of the 1949 Soviet nuclear test explosion RDS-1—codenamed in the US as “Joe-1″—posing, in 2012, at locations that had been popular gay cruising sites in Washington D.C. circa 1930s-1950s. The Security Risk Map of Manhattan maps gay cruising and Communist meeting sites of the 1930-1950s, presenting an open ended question about the “conspiracy” and overlap between the two groups.

Two installations focus on a particular historical figure whose life epitomized this ironic and widely unknown intersection of policies. The piece History of the CPUSA (Harry Hay) consists of a 1952 edition of History of the Communist Party of the United States by William Z. Foster, with inserts about the life and work of Harry Hay (1912–2002). Harry Hay was a communist activist who was forced out of the CPUSA during the McCarthy era, and who later became one of the founders of the gay rights movement in the United States. The work Marxism and the National Question (Harry Hay) is an installation that consists of Joseph Stalin’s 1942 English edition books, Marxism and the National Question, in which Stalin outlines his definition of national minorities. This book sparked Harry Hay’s groundbreaking concept that “gay” constitute a minority—similar to African-Americans or Jews—and as a separate people they are entitled to civil rights. In a whim of historical irony, Hay appropriated the writings by the oppressive Soviet Thermidorian dictator and turned them into a tool of liberation, laying a foundation for the gay movement in the United States.

Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has been living and working in New York since 1994. Fiks has produced many projects on the subject of the post-Soviet dialogue in the West, among them: Ayn Rand in Illustration, a series of drawings pairing descriptive text from Atlas Shrugged with uncannily complimentary Soviet Socialist Realism classic artworks; “Lenin for Your Library?” in which he mailed V.I. Lenin’s text “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” to one hundred global corporations as a donation for their corporate libraries; “Communist Party USA,” a series of portraits of current members of the Communist Party USA, painted from life in the Party’s national headquarters in New York City; and “A Communist Guide to New York City,” a series of photographs of buildings and public places in New York City that are connected to the history of the American Communist movement. Fiks’ work has been shown internationally. This includes exhibitions in the United States at Winkleman and Postmasters galleries (both in New York), Mass MoCA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art; the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow; Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, and the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon. His work has been included in the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2011, 2009, 2007 and 2005), Biennale of Sydney (2008) and Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2007).

Yevgeniy FiksJoe-1 Cruising in Washington, DC (Monument Grounds), 2012, photograph.

BOOK PARTY

Friday, February 15, 2013, 6-8 PM

About the book

Yevgeniy Fiks’ newest book — Moscow (Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2013) — documents gay cruising sites in Soviet Moscow, from the early 1920s to the USSR’s dissolution in the early 1990s. Photographed in 2008 in a simple but haunting documentary style, these sites of the bygone queer underground present a hidden and forgotten Moscow, with a particular focus on Revolutionary Communist sites appropriated by queer Muscovites. The book concludes with the first English-language publication of a 1934 letter to Joseph Stalin in which British communist Harry Whyte presents a Marxist defense of homosexuality in light of its recriminalization in the USSR.

jpeg-1

UGLY DUCKLING PRESSE | $35 | ISBN 978-1-933254-61-6
Cloth-bound & foil-stamped | 104 pages | Full Color | 8” x 10”
Release Date: February 15, 2013

For more information, contact Edward Winkleman at:
212.643.3152 or edward@winkleman.com.

Winkleman Gallery
621 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
t: 212.643.3152
www.winkleman.com

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Filed under art exhibitions, contemporary art, feminism, gay rights, political repression, Russian society

Yevgeniy Fiks, Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America (New York)

Yevgeniy Fiks
Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America

October 26 – December 22, 2012
Opening Reception: Friday, October 26, 2012

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America, our third solo exhibition by New York-based artist Yevgeniy Fiks. Taking its title from a 1953 article by the Cold Warrior and pundit Arthur Guy Mathews, this exhibition explores the historical and ideological links between anti-Communism and homophobia in the United States, as well as the intersections between Communism and sexual identity as it played out during the 20th century. Works in the exhibition range from dry factuality to humor, and farce, and posit the 20th century queerness as the shared Other of the Communism-Capitalism dichotomy, while tracing the uneasy yet tangible historical links between the early 20th century Communist activism and the gay rights movement of the second half of the century.

The exhibition delves into the interlocking histories of the “Red” and “Lavender” scares during the McCarthy-era, when anti-Communist and anti-gay sentiments were fused together in the Cold War witch-hunt rhetoric. Pundits and government officials went as far as envisioning a sinister conspiracy: the Soviet Union is promoting homosexuality as a tool to destroy America. Concurrently, the federal government purged homosexuals that it employed, calling them “security risks”—vulnerable of being blackmailed by Soviet agents into working for them.  Ironically, in response to and mirroring its ideological enemy, the American Communist Party also purged known gays from its ranks—marking them as “security risks”—for fear that gay Communists were vulnerable to blackmail and could become informants for the Feds. The official charter of the Communist Party USA even before its 1950s anti-gay purge strictly prohibited gays from membership, adhering to the policies of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union where homosexuality was officially criminalized under Stalin and stigmatized as a “capitalist degeneracy.”

Works in the exhibition include Stalin’s Atom Bomb a.k.a. Homosexuality, a series of prints that highlights paranoid anti-communist and anti-gay quotations from American politicians and pundits of the era. Another series, Joe-1 Cruising in Washington, DC includes photographs of a six-foot cutout of the 1949 Soviet nuclear test explosion RDS-1—codenamed in the US as “Joe-1″—posing, in 2012, at locations that had been popular gay cruising sites in Washington D.C. circa 1930s-1950s. The Security Risk Map of Manhattan maps gay cruising and Communist meeting sites of the 1930-1950s, presenting an open ended question about the “conspiracy” and overlap between the two groups.

Two installations focus on a particular historical figure whose life epitomized this ironic and widely unknown intersection of policies. The piece History of the CPUSA (Harry Hay) consists of a 1952 edition of History of the Communist Party of the United States by William Z. Foster, with inserts about the life and work of Harry Hay (1912–2002). Harry Hay was a communist activist who was forced out of the CPUSA during the McCarthy era, and who later became one of the founders of the gay rights movement in the United States. The work Marxism and the National Question (Harry Hay) is an installation that consists of Joseph Stalin’s 1942 English edition books, Marxism and the National Question, in which Stalin outlines his definition of national minorities. This book sparked Harry Hay’s groundbreaking concept that “gay” constitute a minority—similar to African-Americans or Jews—and as a separate people they are entitled to civil rights. In a whim of historical irony, Hay appropriated the writings by the oppressive Soviet Thermidorian dictator and turned them into a tool of liberation, laying a foundation for the gay movement in the United States.

Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has been living and working in New York since 1994. Fiks has produced many projects on the subject of the Post-Soviet dialog in the West, among them: Ayn Rand in Illustration, a series of drawing pairing descriptive text from Atlas Shrugged with uncannily complimentary Soviet Socialist Realism classic artworks; “Lenin for Your Library?” in which he mailed V.I. Lenin’s text “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” to one hundred global corporations as a donation for their corporate libraries; “Communist Party USA,” a series of portraits of current members of Communist Party USA, painted from life in the Party’s national headquarters in New York City; and “Communist Guide to New York City,” a series of photographs of buildings and public places in New York City that are connected to the history of the American Communist movement. Fiks’ work has been shown internationally. This includes exhibitions in the United States at Winkleman and Postmasters galleries (both in New York), Mass MoCA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art; the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow; Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, and the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon. His work has been included in the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2011, 2009, 2007 and 2005), Biennale of Sydney (2008) and Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2007).

For more information, contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or edward@winkleman.com.

Image above: Yevgeniy Fiks, Joe-1 Cruising in Washington, DC (Monument Grounds), 2012, photograph.

Winkleman Gallery
621 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
t: 212.643.3152
www.winkleman.com

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Valences of the Contemporary Police State: “The Rise of Street Extremism” in the UK

First this, from F for Philistine:

UK Uncut protested today [January 30] at Boots, who avoided a £87m tax bill last year by relocating their head offices to Switzerland. Protesters were today handing out leaflets, and occupying the store since the news of Boots’ tax-dodging comes at the same time as we hear of massive cuts (sorry, restructuring) to the NHS.

The protest was peaceful, and good-natured. Several shoppers joined the demonstration, and once we left the store to hand out leaflets on the street, passers-by were wishing us well and cheering us on. One woman marched up to the manager of Boots and asked “Is this true?” waving a leaflet in his face. He shrugged and told her, unfortunately, it was, but it wasn’t a decision he was involved in. I chatted to a Community Support Officer about his bike (it’s far superior to mine), and we spoke to the manager of Boots as well: there wasn’t any ill-will about.

Then, as I was stood next to the locked automatic doors, I noticed that a police officer was asking a woman to remove a number of leaflets she’d placed in the gap between the door. The woman asked why she was being asked to do so. The policewoman initially said “Littering” then claimed it was criminal damage. At this point the woman objected to being touched on the arm by the policewoman. A number of people started taking photos of the exchange, then she was arrested by two officers who led her towards a thoroughfare next to Boots.


A number of protesters followed to keep an eye on the situation, chanting “Shame On You”. At this point, one of the officers, CW2440, used CS gas on a number of protesters nearby. I decided to film from a distance, rather than follow, as can be seen in the footage below:


I saw at least 7 people who had been sprayed in the eyes including a journalist, with three men particularly badly affected. One protesters had contact lenses in, which reacted with the spray. If you’ve never been tear-gassed before, it’s horrific. You can’t see, you’re in extreme amounts of pain, and massively panicked by the fact that you have no clue where you are, or who is around you. I called an ambulance, who confirmed they’d be there as soon as possible. At this point, three police officers with slightly different uniforms arrived at the scene: Legal Observers later told me they were Diplomatic Police, and definitely had tasers, though may also have been armed. Boots staff were shocked by the scenes, and an optician and first aid team inside offered to help those injured. The ambulance arrived soon afterwards, and took the three worst affected inside, initially thinking they could treat them in the ambulance. After 15 minutes, they confirmed they’d be taking them to hospital. A police officer then started speaking to us, informing us of how to make a complaint, asked us if we had the contact details of those injured then told us the number of the officer who’d used CS gas. Another officer later came over to a legal observer I was talking to and confirmed that Officer CW2440 had been the one to use gas on the protesters. I’ve never seen police officers offer up this type of information before, though am happy to be corrected.

It was a hugely jarring thing to witness, and I wasn’t affected. The policing was initially calm, and hands-off then suddenly became massively over zealous. That CS gas was used on one of the busiest streets in London in response to people simply chanting is terrifying. I’ve often thought criticism of the police can be a little unproductive, but today has made me think otherwise.

__________

Well, that is all very nice, but what does it mean? Fortunately, the UK, like any other largish country with a proud tradition of democracy, has lots of experts on hand to defog our brains when nasty people try to hand us leaflets in high street shops. Like this blue-ribbon panel of well-spoken chaps in suits, who reveal that it is the Trotskyists who are to blame and make helpful suggestions on how to crush the current Red Menace:

Here is how the think thank responsible for convening this panel in its “Ideas Space” described it and the distinguished panelists:

There are increasing signs that significant sections of the extreme left have little intention of confining their opposition to Coalition policies to peaceful, democratic protest.  In recent weeks we have seen riots over student tuition fees, the forcible closure of high street stores by flashmobs and also growing demands for industrial action to undermine the Coalition administration, including from the leader of Britain’s biggest trade union.

Do these actions portend a dangerous new trend towards the use of physical force?  If so, what can and should be done to prevent this phenomenon becoming a regular feature of the national landscape?

Speakers:
Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM – former Head of the Counter Terrorism Command and former Borough Commander in Brixton during the 1995 riots
Rt Hon David Maclean – former Minister of State at the Home Office and Parliamentary Adviser to the Police Superintendents Association
Paul Mercer – UK’s pre-eminent expert on extremist groups and author, Longman’s Directory of British Political Organisations
Henry Robinson –  Anti Terrorist community and street activist and former Irish republican prisoner

__________

Editor’s Note. Thanks to Comrade E. and Sons of Malcolm for the heads-up.

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Milton Rogovin: The Forgotten Ones

Milton Rogovin: The Forgotten Ones (2003; Harvey Wang, director; Best Documentary Short, 2003 Tribeca Film Festival)

This short film celebrates the life’s work of photographer Milton Rogovin, who was 93 when this film was shot. After being blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s and subsequently losing his optometry practice, Rogovin dedicated his life to photographing the residents of a depressed six-block area in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. Rogovin’s first series of portraits of Lower West Side residents was completed in 1972. Over the next twenty years, Rogovin returned two more times to re-photograph his subjects. The film follows him as he returns one more time to the Lower West Side to take a fourth in his series of once-a-decade portraits.

Benjamin Genocchio
Milton Rogovin, Photographer, Dies at 101
The New York Times, January 18, 2011

Milton Rogovin, an optometrist and persecuted leftist who took up photography as a way to champion the underprivileged and went on to become one of America’s most dedicated social documentarians, died on Tuesday at his home in Buffalo. He was 101.

He died of natural causes, his son, Mark Rogovin, said.

Mr. Rogovin chronicled the lives of the urban poor and working classes in Buffalo, Appalachia and elsewhere for more than 50 years. His direct photographic style in stark black and white evokes the socially minded work that Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Gordon Parks produced for the Farm Security Administration during the Depression. Today his entire archive resides in the Library of Congress.

Mr. Rogovin (pronounced ruh-GO-vin) came to wide notice in 1962 after documenting storefront church services on Buffalo’s poor and predominantly African-American East Side. The images were published in Aperture magazine with an introduction by W. E. B. Du Bois, who described them as “astonishingly human and appealing.”

He went on to photograph Buffalo’s impoverished Lower West Side and American Indians on reservations in the Buffalo area. He traveled to West Virginia and Kentucky to photograph miners, returning to Appalachia each summer with his wife, Anne Rogovin, into the early 1970s. In the ’60s he went to Chile at the invitation of the poet Pablo Neruda to photograph the landscape and the people. The two collaborated on a book, “Windows That Open Inward: Images of Chile.”

In a 1976 review of a Rogovin show of photographs from Buffalo at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan, the critic Hilton Kramer wrote of Mr. Rogovin in The New York Times: “He sees something else in the life of this neighborhood — ordinary pleasures and pastimes, relaxation, warmth of feeling and the fundamentals of social connection. He takes his pictures from the inside, so to speak, concentrating on family life, neighborhood business, celebrations, romance, recreation and the particulars of individuals’ existence.”

Milton Rogovin was born on Dec. 30, 1909, in Brooklyn, the third of three sons of Jewish immigrant parents from Lithuania. His parents, Jacob Rogovin and the former Dora Shainhouse, operated a dry goods business, first in Manhattan on Park Avenue near 112th Street and later in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. After attending Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, the young Mr. Rogovin graduated from Columbia University in 1931 with a degree in optometry; four months later, after the family had lost the store and its home to bankruptcy during the Depression, his father died of a heart attack.

Working as an optometrist in Manhattan, Mr. Rogovin became increasingly distressed at the plight of the poor and unemployed — “the forgotten ones,” he called them — and increasingly involved in leftist political causes.

“I was a product of the Great Depression, and what I saw and experienced myself made me politically active,” he said in a 1994 interview with The New York Times.

He began attending classes sponsored by the Communist Party-run New York Workers School, began to read the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker and was introduced to the social-documentary photographs of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine.

Mr. Rogovin moved to Buffalo in 1938 and opened his own optometric office on Chippewa Street the next year, providing service to union workers. In 1942 he married Anne Snetsky before volunteering for the Army and serving for three years in England, where he worked as an optometrist. Also in 1942, he bought a camera.

Returning to Buffalo after the war (his brother Sam, also an optometrist, managed the practice in his absence), Mr. Rogovin joined the local chapter of the Optical Workers Union and served as librarian for the Buffalo branch of the Communist Party.

In 1957, with cold war anti-Communism rife in the United States, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee but refused to testify. Soon afterward, The Buffalo Evening News labeled him “Buffalo’s Number One Red,” and he and his family were ostracized. With his business all but ruined by the publicity, he began to fill time by taking pictures, focusing on Buffalo’s poor and dispossessed in the neighborhood around his practice while living on his wife’s salary as a teacher and being mentored by the photographer Minor White.

His wife, a special education teacher, was a collaborator throughout his career and helped him organize his photographs until her death, in 2003.

Mr. Rogovin’s photographs were typically naturalistic portraits of people he met on the street. “The first six months were very difficult,” he recalled in a 2003 interview, “because they thought I was from the police department or the F.B.I.

But he gradually built trust, giving away prints of portraits in exchange for sittings. He never told his subjects what to do, allowing them to pose in settings and clothing of their own choosing.

“These aren’t cool sociological renderings but intensely personal evocations of a world whose faces are often missing in a culture that celebrates the beautiful and the powerful,” Julie Salamon wrote in The Times in 2003 on the occasion of a Rogovin exhibition at the New-York Historical Society.

Mr. Rogovin began his Storefront Church series in 1961 at the invitation of a friend, William Tallmadge, a professor of music at State University College at Buffalo who was making recordings at a black church on the city’s East Side. The success of the series encouraged Mr. Rogovin to devote more and more time to photography and persuaded him that photography could be an instrument of social change.

In 1972 he earned a Master of Arts in American studies from the University at Buffalo, where he taught documentary photography from 1972 to 1974. The next year he held his first major exhibition, at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.

In the next years his photographs were published in several books and widely exhibited; a show of his work is currently on view at the Gage Gallery in Chicago. Many are in the collections of museums, including the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Library of Congress acquired his archive in 1999.

In addition to his son, of Forest Park, Ill., Mr. Rogovin is survived by two daughters, Ellen Rogovin Hart of Melrose Park, Pa., and Paula Rogovin of Teaneck, N.J.; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

In his later years, as his health declined, Mr. Rogovin used a wheelchair and no longer took photographs. In 2009 he was nominated for a National Medal of Arts but was not selected.

His activism, however, was undimmed — he attended political rallies and antiwar protests into his final years — and his social conscience remained acute.

“All my life I’ve focused on the poor,” he said in 2003. “The rich ones have their own photographers.”

__________

Editor’s Note. Thanks to Louis Proyect for bringing the sad news of Mr. Rogovin’s death to our attention.

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