Bari Weiss on art destruction

by Greg Mayer

In tomorrow’s New York Times (online now), Bari Weiss writes about a decision by the San Francisco School Board to destroy a mural by Victor Arnautoff, a Russian-American-Russian artist who taught at Stanford from 1938 to 1962.

A portion of the murals slated for destruction at George Washington High School.

Arnautoff led an interesting life. He was a White cavalry officer in the Russian Civil War, a mercenary in China, and, after immigrating to the United States, became an ardent Communist. He repeatedly applied to return to the Soviet Union during the depths of Stalinism, but was denied. During World War II, he became a pro-Russian activist following the falling out between Hitler and Stalin. Finally, the Soviets relented, and he returned to Russia in 1963.

During his long sojourn in California, Arnautoff painted many murals, including a series at George Washington High School in San Francisco. As might be expected from a staunch leftist, the murals are unsentimental– they show that slaves were an economic linchpin of colonial Virginia, and that pioneer expansion meant the death and displacement of the Indians.

Now, these murals are to be destroyed in order to insure that students “are mentally and emotionally feeling safe at their schools,” and because the murals do not reflect “social justice”. Weiss points out the great irony in destroying a work of art that is an explicit critique of hagiographic and rosy views of Washington and American history in the name of social justice. And, needless to say, it is not white students who are to be made safe from being exposed to Washington’s faults, but rather non-white students who are to be made safe.

Both students and alumni oppose the destruction, and the mindlessness of the Board is made evident when Weiss points out that the vice president of the school’s alumni association, Lope Yap, who is Filipino, is accused of being a “white supremacist”!

Weiss, insightfully in my view, refers to this as an incident of “progressive Puritanism”. The Puritanical mindset, once the province of the right, has now become a mainstay of the woke left: unacceptable opinions and art must be banned.

An aspect of Arnautoff’s life that Weiss does not emphasize is his role in helping establish principles of academic freedom at Stanford University. Arnautoff’s work often contained political statements and social critique, and even, on occasion– heaven forfend!– bare female breasts (the angst over which is another link to Puritanism), and thus led to controversy. His Washington murals were in this style. Historian Robert Cherny describes them this way:

In the murals, Arnautoff implicitly challenged the version of U.S. history then typical in American high schools. In depicting Mount Vernon, Arnautoff literally marginalized Washington and put enslaved African Americans in the center of one of the scenes. The mural presented a counter-narrative to most high-school histories of the time, which tended to ignore the existence of slaves at Mount Vernon, as well as the paradox of slaveholders fighting for the principle that all men are created equal. Another large mural presents Washington pointing the nation to the West. Again, however, Arnautoff’s counter-narrative makes it dramatically clear that the way west was over the body of a dead Indian.

A lithograph entitled DIX McSmear, caricaturing then Vice President Richard Nixon and McCarthyism, was removed from the San Francisco Art Festival. Eventually, Arnautoff was investigated by both Stanford University and the House Un-American Activities Committee (which Arnautoff cheekily referred to as the “Un-American Sub-Committee”). In a response to the Committee, Arnautoff wrote

Do they [the Committee] consider an artist’s colors, brushes, crayons and pencils as murderous tools? If they do, it is a new low in right-wing thinking, and it is time for the American people—and especially for American artists—to be concerned with a threat that affects everyone as fully as it does me. I value my freedoms, and I intend to defend my rights as a citizen and as an artist, and to express my belief in American principles in the future as I have in the past.

Stanford instigated a second investigation of Arnautoff after this. Detailed records no longer exist, but Arnautoff apparently scored a major victory. Not only was he neither disciplined nor dismissed by Stanford, he got a 15.5% raise! (Arnautoff had raised the issue of low salaries for humanities faculty during the investigation.)

Cherny summarizes, “The lack of any suggestion of incompetence or bias in Arnautoff’s teaching effectively undercut the arguments of those who claimed that a [Communist] party member was inevitably an incompetent teacher.”

And when a while later local papers criticized Arnautoff, Stanford now came to his defense:

The right of free speech and free thought is a very important part of a strong democracy; it is easy to lose this privilege if we do not defend the right of people to hold views which differ radically from those held by most of us.

In Arnautoff’s heyday he was attacked by the right; now he is attacked by alleged leftists. But his critics share the same Puritanical mindset. Arnautoff is perhaps not an unmixed hero– a Stalinist who demanded the rights of an American while secretly renouncing his American citizenship so as to return to the Soviet Union– but in his defense of art and academic freedom, he was absolutely right. As Churchill said, if Hitler invaded hell, he would at least say something nice about the Devil in the Commons.


Cherny, R.W. 2017. “No proven Communist should hold a position at Stanford”: Victor Mikhail Arnautoff, the House Un-American Activities Committee, and Stanford. Sandstone & Tile 37(3): 3-18. (The journal of the Stanford Historical Society.) pdf

78 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Art destroyers at at the ruling level tend to, historically, be tyrants, dictators or rulers in an ancient empirical age. That should tell us something about the times we are living in.

    • Bob
      Posted June 30, 2019 at 6:08 am | Permalink

      Seems like a job for Winston Smith in the Minitrue RecDep.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 30, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      Has the Coronation Ceremony for Trump the Second (Ivanka or Donald Jr) been booked yet, and how are they going to decide which one? Age, gender, or fight to the death?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 30, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        If it is fight to the death, i hope they play Amok Time as the background music.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted June 30, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          Did the Roman gladiatorial stage directors provide guidance? There’s no point in re-inventing the fanfare.

    • chrism
      Posted June 30, 2019 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      ‘Entartete Kunst’. We have been here before. Didn’t turn out well last time.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 30, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Indeed.

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Art destroyers at at the ruling level tend to, historically, be tyrants, dictators or rulers in an ancient empirical age. That should tell us something about the times we are living in.

  3. DrBrydon
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t understand wanting to eliminate any monuments, art, etc. that appear to depict racism or racists from the past on the one hand, and on the other the constant drum beat about the America’s original sin of racism. It seems like the former would be useful tools. On the gripping hand, though, the censors are all just unlettered vandals, and, as nuance and discernment go out the window, it isn’t surprising.

  4. Historian
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    The decision to destroy these paintings is totally bizarre. The radical left should love them since they depict the results of whites oppressing minorities. This incident reinforces my contempt for extremism and purism.

  5. Steve Gerrard
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Why can’t they just cover up with a bland panel of some sort? There is no reason to be all Taliban about it and actually destroy it.

    You have to view the art as celebrating dead Indians to take offense at it. Do people no longer consider the possibility that art might be critical of what is depicted, as a reminder of what we once were?

    • Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Do people no longer consider the possibility that art might be critical of what is depicted, as a reminder of what we once were?

      Silly you, to even consider that possibility!

      Victor Arnautoff was White.
      All Whites are racist.
      Therefore the mural is racist, indeed likely White Supremicist. That’s all one needs to know.

      • Doug
        Posted June 29, 2019 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

        Do people no longer consider that art might be critical of what is depicted . . .?

        Doesn’t matter. Only Black people can paint pictures of Emmett Till, so only Black people can paint pictures condemning slavery, and only Native Americans can paint pictures depicting the mistreatment of Native Americans. Stay in your lane!

    • rickflick
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      I remember there was a plaque made by a famous Italian sculptor in a Catholic high school near me. For some reason, I don’t remember exactly why (WW II?) it was walled over but not destroyed. Recently it was uncovered and celebrated and moved elsewhere (a museum, I think).

    • denise
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      “Mark Sanchez, the school board’s vice president, later told me that simply concealing the murals wasn’t an option because it would “allow for the possibility of them being uncovered in the future.”

      • rickflick
        Posted June 29, 2019 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        He’s right about the future. When a new school board takes over who are more appreciative of artistic freedom and free expression.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 30, 2019 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      Why can’t they just cover up with a bland panel of some sort? There is no reason to be all Taliban about it and actually destroy it.

      Do you mean to say that you’d allow all-American cultural heroes like this school board to be outdone by a bunch of barbarous foreigners? Call out the National Guard, throw a rope over the lynching tree, and celebrate what made America great first time round!

      Just for a laugh, while waiting for the F1 to kick off, I happen to be watching Eastwood’s classic “High Plains Drifter, and note that John Wayne didn’t like it : “in a letter to Eastwood, he wrote, “That isn’t what the West was all about. That isn’t the American people who settled this country.
      It would be delicious to see which side Wayne supported in this controversy. I suspect he’d wield the sledgehammer himself.

  6. FB
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Art destruction is like death penalty. There are other options.

  7. Eli Siegel
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    My primary school, Maple Ave. School in Newark, NJ, had a WPA mural on the wall in back of the auditorium stage. Around 1951 it was painted over as it was too left wing.

  8. KD33
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Tragedy.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    And this in California of all places where they continued to slaughter Indians until the 20th century. Not that we want to upset any one. The false history that we received as kids in school did nothing but make us stupid.

  10. Terry Pedersen
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    According to recent news here in SF,the mural cannot be
    destroyed, by law, for many years after the artist’s death. So it will be covered. How wasn’t described.

  11. ed hessler
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    There is a good essay in The Conversation (May 10 2019) by Amna Khalid, History and Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, Educational Studies both at Carleton College titled “Activists want a SF high school mural removed, saying its impact today should overshadow the artist’s intentions.”

  12. Gasper Sciacca
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    It saddens me to think that my city is veering toward tranny.

    “We all know that art is not the truth, art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”
    —Pablo Picasso

    • Gasper Sciacca
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      “tyranny”

      • Steve Gerrard
        Posted June 29, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Possibly a serendipitous typo, though. 🙂

  13. Jon Gallant
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    The plan to destroy Arnautoff’s mural reflects the richly comic merger of Left McCarthyism with the faux-therapeutic attitude and administration denseness, in a story that contains almost too many ironies to be believed. First, during the first period of McCarthyism, a piece by Arnautoff is removed from an Art Festival because it attacks McCarthyism; and now, in our period of Left McCarthysim, works of his are rejected because their critique of America is not expressed with the approved kind of heavy-handed, agitprop stupidity.

    Second, Stanford cleared Arnautoff of the charge of bringing ideological propaganda into his teaching, and refused the McCarthyist pressure to dismiss him because of his CP membership. Today, whole departments are brazenly devoted to Left ideological propaganda, and if any professors depart from this orthodoxy, like Brett Weinstein or Camille Pagia, it is students and faculty on what calls itself the Left who demand their dismissal.

    Third, after writing powerfully in defense of artistic freedom in the USA, he returned to the USSR, of all places, the home of the Zhdanov Doctrine and enforced Socialist Realism in art. Even in 1974, 21 years after Stalin died and 11 years after Arnautoff’s return, police broke up and bulldozed an unofficial exhibition of modern art (see “Bulldozer Exhibition” in Wiki).

    Finally, Arnautoff returned to live in Mariupol in the Ukraine. Mariupol is a port on the Sea of Azov, near the Russian border. In Soviet times, it was named Zhdanov, after the very commissar who enforced the Zhdanov Doctrine of dictatorship in art. Mariupol is currently under pressure from Russia and its proxies in the neighboring Donbas region—and Russia, of course, is ruled by one Vladimir Vladimirovich, formerly an officer in the USSR’s principal organ of state security.

  14. GBJames
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  15. RPGNo1
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Tosay they are destroying art and tomorrow they will burn books.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_book_burnings

    PS: I know this comparison is very provocative.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 30, 2019 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      “dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.”
      PS: I know this comparison is very provocative.

      • RPGNo1
        Posted June 30, 2019 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        Indeed.

  16. revelator60
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Whether left-wing or right-wing, political extremists are always philistines. I live in San Francisco and will refuse to vote for the re-election of any members of the current School Board. Destroyers of art have no place in education.

  17. mfdempsey1946
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    This differs how from what the Taliban did to ancient artworks in Afghanistan?

    • BJ
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Great point.

    • harrync
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      “This differs how from what the Taliban did to ancient artworks in Afghanistan?” Well, the Taliban destroyed art that advanced ideas they opposed; the SF School Board wants to destroy art that advances ideas that they support. So I would say that as far as stupidity is concerned, the School Board manages to outdo the Taliban.

  18. merilee
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    🐾🐾

  19. BJ
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Remember when we all mocked Ashcroft for covering the statue of the Spirit of Justice during his speeches because of her scandalous marble boobies? At least he didn’t destroy the freaking thing. He didn’t even remove it.

    This is becoming parody. Well, I shouldn’t say “becoming,” as the Puritanical Left surpassed parody some time ago.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      BJ – Saw Ron Howard’s new doc Pavarotti today. Like Luciano himself, it’s charming and magnificent. Transporting, really.

      • merilee
        Posted June 29, 2019 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        I am dying to see that. Always loved ol’ Luciano (saw him several times live: SF Opera in Boheme during a mild earthquake and with Sutherland and André Previn and Pittsburgh Symphony). The movie only had one showing near me😖 Assume it will eventually be on dvd from the library.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 29, 2019 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

          don’t miss it when you get the chance.

          • merilee
            Posted June 29, 2019 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

            Will do. It’s surprisingly now only playing in one theater about an hour away. I did see a fairly good fairly recent documentary on him on PBS: Great Performances or American Masters or some such.

        • BJ
          Posted June 29, 2019 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

          An opera during an earthquake! Not many people can say they’ve experienced that. Pretty cool 🙂 Was the audience largely placid and the show just went on normally? Or was there some murmuring or maybe even some concern? Did everybody on stage go on as usual from the moment the rumble started?

          Sorry for all the questions, but this just sounds like such a unique situation!

          • merilee
            Posted June 29, 2019 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

            The “rumble” happened in the middle of the opera. We were standing in the very back of the top balcony and saw the huge chandelier go back and forth. At first from the sound and the quaver I thought some kids were running behind us. People did gasp. Luciano and Mirella Freni and the orchestra missed a beat or two, but not a note and the show went on. Can’t remember what size it turned out to be on the Richter scale; not a 7 or anything, but strong enough. I felt aftershocks at my backyard apartment when I got home. Late ‘69.

            Btw, I no longer stand at the opera. I treat myself to good seats🤓

            • BJ
              Posted June 30, 2019 at 9:54 am | Permalink

              What a great story. I bet it’s a hit at parties! Really cool. Thank you.

          • merilee
            Posted June 29, 2019 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1969_Santa_Rosa_earthquakes

            I’m assuming this must have been the one.

      • BJ
        Posted June 29, 2019 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        Hmmmm, didn’t even know about that. Would you suggest it for someone who doesn’t listen to or really have any interest in opera? Or is it really just for fans? Like, even though I’ve never cared about car racing, I found Senna to be a great watch.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 30, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

          Absolutely. I’m no aficionado myself (though I try to get to the local theater whenever they do a simulcast from the Met, or from one of the European opera houses at odd hours of the morning. I usually don’t know WTF is going on on stage, but sometimes it still makes me blubber like a baby.) 🙂

          Opie definitely made this one to be accessible to the non-buff. See it!

          • BJ
            Posted June 30, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

            Will do, sir.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted June 30, 2019 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

              Here’s the trailer.

              • rickflick
                Posted June 30, 2019 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

                That one too, goes on my to-see list.

          • merilee
            Posted June 30, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            Often it’s better NOT to know WTF is going on on stage, as so many of the plots are really cheesy. The HD broadcasts from the Met, in cinemas, are a brilliant invention. I try to make them all, as well as our 6 live Canadian Opera Company productions (they are getting damn near as good as the Met, and the last 3 Springs I’ve treated myself to one LIVE performance at the actual Met (I have two old friends to stay with outside just Manhattan). As Philomena and Brian would say, good opera is woooonderful (amateur opera, not so much).🎶🎶❤️

      • BJ
        Posted June 29, 2019 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        Hey, I’ve recently been expanding my, well, ever-expanding DVD/Blu-ray collection, so here are some suggestions (or, if you’ve seen them, I’d like to know what you think):

        The Guest and You’re Next, both made by the same writer/director team and both excellent attempts to play with and update horror movie conventions

        Deathtrap, one of my favorite classics. Surely you’ve seen this one, right?!? If not, you’re in for a real treat, but I can’t imagine you haven’t.

        Withnail and I, a wonderful treatise on the life of the average struggling actor, burgeoning with brilliant British wit and cynicism.

        The Silent Partner. I remember asking you about this a long time ago, but I don’t remember what you said. A fun thriller with a great heel turn by Christopher Plummer, who I always love. Elliot Gould, in his role as the star, is in his languid The Long Goodbye mode.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 30, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          Thanks, Beej. I’ve seen Death Trap and Withnail (and would gladly watch them again). I’ll check out the others.

          • BJ
            Posted June 30, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

            OOH, wait! I just saw another great one today (well, it finally arrived in the mail and I watched it for the first time in many years): Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. It was Sidney Lumet’s last film and it’s a pretty great one, buoyed by the usual brilliance of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

  20. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me when the Taliban blew up the 6th century CE Buddha statutes in the Bamyan valley of Afghanistan in March 2001.

    When will they ever learn?

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    … even, on occasion– heaven forfend!– bare female breasts …

    Reminds me of a local politician here who once ran on a platform of closing down the city’s only topless beach. Turned out, a plumbing supply company he owned advertised on matchbooks that featured bare-breasted women on the inside cover.

    When confronted with this seeming hypocrisy, he said — I shit you not — “that’s ok, but we got to keep it away from the women and children.”

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Your local politician’s comment almost rises to the level of the gem uttered by J. Parnell Thomas, of HUAC, just before he entered prison for a little fraud/kickback racket he operated in his Congress office. It was, I recall, something like “I welcome the opportunity to investigate the conditions inside our federal prisons.”

    • BJ
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Gotta keep those breasts away from the women! Seeing breasts can destroy their mental health.

  22. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    A lithograph entitled DIX McSmear, caricaturing then Vice President Richard Nixon and McCarthyism …

    California congressman Richard Milhous Nixon first made a national name for himself on HUAC going after Alger Hiss.

    Nixon was a miserable red-baiting prick, even if Hiss was guilty.

  23. Posted June 29, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Will it be replaced by The Mural of the Workers Struggling to Complete the Mural?

  24. Posted June 29, 2019 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Having lived most of my growing years in the Bay Area, and looking upon San Francisco as a
    liberal font of wisdom, I am saddened by and ashamed of this intended destruction, whether it happens or not. It is essential that we face the truths of our past history as told by a variety of sources from their perspectives. We have had too many years of white-washing of our history, art and literature. Humanity has always been multi-faceted, not just good, not just bad. Let’s
    grow up and live with it.

  25. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Weiss, insightfully in my view, refers to this as an incident of “progressive Puritanism”. The Puritanical mindset, once the province of the right …

    This situation recalls the “Man at the Crossroads” fresco done by the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and installed at Rockefeller Center that the Rockefeller family had destroyed and plastered over upon discovering that it contained what they deemed “anti-capitalist propaganda” in the form of an image of Vladimir Lenin and a May Day parade.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      Of course the mural was well known by then and it’s destruction made it and Diego more famous. There are still wonderful anti-capitalist murals remaining at the Detroit Institute of Arts which occupy the entirety of the central plaza. It’s really vibrant and a must-see for anyone visiting Detroit.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 29, 2019 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      Detroit Institute of Arts:

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 30, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Thx, Rick. Another great asset of the Motor City.

    • Posted June 30, 2019 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Arnautoff worked with Rivera, and their approaches to murals had many similarities.

      GCM

  26. W.Benson
    Posted June 29, 2019 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    One minor bone to pick: Arnautoff “became a pro-Russian activist following the falling out between Hitler and Stalin.”
    I was unaware that there was ever a “falling in”, much less a “falling out” between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Hitler and Stalin were never buddies like Trump and Kim. Practically from the first line of “Mein Kampf”, Hitler expressed his loathing of communists and socialists (and had them jailed along with Jews and Roma), and proposed Germany expand, preferably eastward onto lands occupied by subhuman Slavs. USSR policy before the Nazi invasion must be interpreted in this light.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 30, 2019 at 1:24 am | Permalink

      Well, there was the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 1939. Which Hitler revoked in the traditional way in 1941 by the time-honoured expedient of invading Russia.

      Of course, the fact they signed a pact doesn’t mean they ever liked each other.

      cr

    • Caldwell
      Posted June 30, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Hitler expressed his loathing of communists and socialists

      The National Socialists were….socialists.

      • Posted June 30, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        Just in case you are being serious, no they weren’t.

        Or rather they were in the same way as the Democratic Republic of North Korea is democratic.

    • Posted June 30, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Ask a Pole in September 1939 about how well Hitler and Stalin cooperated.

      GCM

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 30, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Two words: Molotov-Ribbentrop.

  27. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted June 30, 2019 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    “Arnautoff is perhaps not an unmixed hero– a Stalinist who demanded the rights of an American while secretly renouncing his American citizenship so as to return to the Soviet Union”

    Does this suggest that non-American residents of the US should have less rights than American citizens? Surely, while he obeyed the laws, he was entitled to the same rights as everyone else.

    I haven’t researched it, but I presume his renunciation of US citizenship was a precondition of his being allowed to return to the USSR. This sort of thing is not unusual.

    In any case, the art should stand on its own merits.

    cr

    • Posted June 30, 2019 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Non-American residents of the US of course do have fewer rights than American citizens (most notably, they can’t vote in most elections), but first amendment rights apply to all. But there is not even a suggestion to the contrary in the OP. What it suggests is that there is a hint of hypocrisy in Arnautoff’s valid and worthwhile assertions of the rights afforded in America to all, especially artists making political commentary, while at the same time yearning to return to a country which recognized no such rights.

      GCM

      • Lurker111
        Posted June 30, 2019 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        Yes, I do wonder what Arnautoff thought of the Soviet Union after finally returning there.

  28. Posted July 2, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    “teachable moment”!?


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