Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
BEIRUT (AP) — A renowned political cartoonist whose drawings expressed Syrians' frustrated hopes for change was grabbed after he left his studio early Thursday and beaten by masked gunmen who broke his hands and dumped him on a road outside Damascus.
One of Syria's most famous artists, Ali Ferzat, 60, (pictured here), earned international recognition and the respect of many Arabs with stinging caricatures that infuriated dictators including Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi and, particularly in recent months, Syria's autocratic Assad family.He lay badly bruised in a hospital bed Thursday evening with his hands swathed in bandages, a stark reminder that no Syrian remains immune to a brutal crackdown on a five-month anti-government uprising.
Ferzat remembers the gunmen telling him that "this is just a warning," as they beat him, a relative told The Associated Press.
Before inheriting Syria's presidency from his father in 2000, Bashar Assad, a British-trained eye doctor, used to visit Ferzat's exhibitions and offer encouraging words, the artist has said.
When the new president opened Syria to reforms, Ferzat was allowed to publish the country's first private newspaper in decades, a satirical weekly called The Lamplighter.
The paper was an instant hit, with copies of each issue selling out a few hours after hitting the stands. It was soon shut down, however, as Assad began cracking down on dissent and jailing critics after the brief, heady period known as the Damascus Spring quickly lost steam.
Ferzat became a vehement critic of the regime, particularly after the military launched a brutal crackdown on the country's protest movement.
Human rights groups said Assad's forces have killed more than 2,000 people since the uprising against his autocratic rule erupted in mid-March, touched off by the wave of revolutions sweeping the Arab world.
An endearing figure with a bushy gray beard, Ferzat drew cartoons about the uprising and posted the illustrations on his private website, providing comic relief to many Syrians who were unable to follow his work in local newspapers because of a ban on his drawings.
His illustrations grew bolder in recent months, with some of his cartoons directly criticizing Assad, even through caricatures of the president are forbidden in Syria.
This week, he published a cartoon showing Assad with a packed suitcase, frantically hitching a ride with a fleeing Gadhafi. Another drawing showed dictators walking a long red carpet that leads them, in the end, to a dustbin.
Ferzat, who usually works late into the night, left his studio at 4 a.m. Thursday, but a jeep with tinted windows quickly cut him off, according to the relative. Four masked gunmen then dragged him out of his car, bundled him into the jeep and drove him to the airport road just outside Damascus, beating him and making threats all the while.
The men then singed the artist's beard, put a bag over his head and dumped him on the side of the road.
The Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus described it as a "government-sponsored, targeted, brutal attack."
"They broke his hands in the most disgusting and deplorable way to send a message," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "It's not only Ali Ferzat that we're worried about. The regime has also locked up a number of other prominent dissidents to send a message."
Assad's crackdown has not spared other Syrian intellectuals and artists who dared to voice criticism. A group of intellectuals and artists, including Syrian actress May Skaff, were rounded up and jailed for a week last month after holding a protest in Damascus.
Damascus-based activist and film producer Shadi Abu Fakher went missing on July 23 and has not been heard of since.
Ferzat, however, is the most famous victim of the repression to date. He had been encouraging other Syrian artists to side with the protesters, even publishing on his website a "List of Shame" that included names of those who were on the side of the regime.
"We were a group of reformers in the country, and suddenly, the doors of hell opened on us. It was a huge disappointment," Ferzat told the AP earlier this month in a phone interview.
The timing of the attack strongly suggests Ferzat's attackers knew his unusual working hours and had been tracking him. Ferzat said his day starts at 5 p.m.
In the telephone interview, he said he was full of hope that the Syrian revolution would bring about the change fervently desired by so many Syrians.
"There are two things in this life that cannot be crushed — the will of God and the will of the people," he said.
Asked if he fears arrest because of his drawings, he said: "I have killed the policeman in my head."
After news of Ferzat's attack broke Thursday, online social networking sites exploded with angry postings.
"Assad's Syria is the burial ground of talent," read a posting on Twitter.
"Ali Ferzat, your innovation will stand in the face of their cowardice and hate," wrote Suheir Atassi, a prominent Syrian pro-democracy activist.
Soon after the attack, his website where he published his cartoons and satirical commentary was taken down. "This account has been suspended," reads a message on the website, http://www.ali-ferzat.com/.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington.
Zeina Karam can be reached on http://twitter.com/zkaram
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Sara Conti has had a busy summer, covering the unused, unseen walls of an abandoned Saint-Ghislain in Belgium with her irreverent characters vomiting, swimming, talking underwater, screaming, buzzing, bleeding and even sometimes (gasp) having what appears to be sex. Sara uses large "autocollants" – simple colored paper that is xeroxed; she then pastes with traditional wallpaper glue.
These newest works are expansive and bring together her simple matryoshka or babushka, Russian nesting dolls into dynamic and very weird plays of love and lust, solitude and electricity (life currents?). We love them. As for the sex, you'l have to figure out where and how. Visit Sara's site: SARACADABRA.
Friday, August 19, 2011
River View, 2011, aquatint-etching on paper, 10 x 13 inches, $150 (edition of 5)
Russell Steinert has just released two small-editioned, hand-pulled aquatint etchings. Steinert is known for his neo-classical, but surreal dreamscapes in oil on canvas. These prints issue from that sensibility.
The Brooklyn, New York-based artist writes: "We just took the dust cover off our Charles Brand press in the garage. The first two efforts: River View and Two Trees." Take a look : Russell Steinert Website.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
John Himmelfarb talks about his trucks, painting and what they mean for all of us. The artist has actually produced a full-sized truck sculpture that looks like it just drove out of one of his monumental truck paintings. Must see: Click here to watch the 5 minute video.
The famed Chicago artist has also installed his truck paintings along a Chicago viaduct underpass and put together a massive show of his fantasic four-wheeled monsters at the Chicago Cultural Center. Gorgeous work. See the review here: DRIVEN.
Also see John Himmelfarb's website.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Joanna Walsh, aka BADAUDE, the itinerant blogger and artist of many things French has taken her pen for a walk in London and, hey! at the Tate Modern.
The book is an alternative walking guide to London. "You travel through the city by atmosphere rather than by the souvenir shops," she says. "Although there are still a few pubs in there!" Buy it direct from the Tate Modern or in Paris at Shakespeare & Company. It's a steal at 8,99 Pounds or 10 Euros. Click to enlarge the photos.
From the book sale site:
London is best appreciated on foot. Packed with quirky observations and out-of-the-way treasures, this unique, hand-drawn guide reveals the charms of a city waiting for those ready to stop and look.
Badaude's intricate and witty drawings not only capture the unique architecture and atmosphere of London's streets, but also the way its inhabitants talk, dress and behave. With twenty-one suggested walks, three bus routes and one boat trip, London Walks! is the perfect companion for every urban explorer.
Badaude writes and illustrates a weekly column in the Times and her work appears regularly in the Guardian and The Idler. She has exhibited at the Port Eliot Festival, Shakespeare and Company and the Wellcome Collection.