’ 60s protest has new rel­e­vance

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By David Ng david. ng@ latimes. com

Two Con­fed­er­ate f lag paint­ings de­cry­ing the racial cli­mate in the South set for La­guna Art Mu­seum.

A pair of Con­fed­er­ate f lag paint­ings that South­ern Cal­i­for­nia artist G. Ray Ker­ciu cre­ated in re­sponse to the racially charged at­mos­phere at the Univer­sity of Mis­sis­sippi dur­ing the 1960s is set to go on dis­play Satur­day at the La­guna Art Mu­seum.

Or­ga­niz­ers said the dis­play came to­gether quickly this week in re­sponse to the na­tional de­bate over the Con­fed­er­ate f lag fol­low­ing last week’s fa­tal shoot­ing of nine peo­ple at a pre­dom­i­nantly black church in South Carolina.

Mal­colm Warner, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the La­guna Art Mu­seum, said in a phone in­ter­view that Ker­ciu’s paint­ings are ex­am­ples of ap­pro­pri­at­ing the Con­fed­er­ate f lag “as a way of at­tack­ing the vi­o­lence and racism that so ap­palled him in Mis­sis­sippi.”

He said that Ker­ciu, a for­mer mu­seum trustee, ap­proached him about dis­play­ing the paint­ings, which are part of a larger se­ries he cre­ated.

“We thought it would be an in­ter­est­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the de­bate, show­ing how an artist can turn im­agery against it­self,” Warner said.

The two paint­ings, ti­tled “Never” and “Ho,” be­long to the artist and aren’t in the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion. The for­mer paint­ing shows the word “Never” in large letters set against the Con­fed­er­ate f lag. The lat­ter piece shows two Con­fed­er­ate f lags f ly­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions.

“In mu­se­ums, we al­ways strive to be rel­e­vant,” Warner said. “So when de­bate swirls around public im­agery, it means there needs to be an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse to show works of art that chime in on the sub­ject.”

Ker­ciu said in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view that he kept the two paint­ings in his col­lec­tion and “I never thought how they would be seen again. They were about what I went through at the time.”

He said he has thought a lot about the re­cent spate of racial un­rest across the coun­try:

“I thought as an old man, we would be past all this stuff,” he said. “But we’re not. It’s a great dis­ap­point­ment to me.”

The artist ex­plained that “Never” was cre­ated in re­sponse to an in­ci­dent when civil rights leader James Mered­ith came to the Univer­sity of Mis­sis­sippi cam­pus.

“He was guarded by fed­eral agents,” Ker­ciu said. “Some stu­dents wore black and white but­tons that said ‘ Never’ and that meant never would they in­te­grate.

“That’s one hell of a strong word.”

The paint­ing “Ho” is a bit more con­cep­tual and fea­tures ran­domly cho­sen letters placed around two Con­fed­er­ate f lags.

Ker­ciu taught for decades at Cal State Fuller­ton and lives in La­guna Beach. He is sched­uled to talk about the paint­ings and his ca­reer July 23 at the La­guna mu­seum.

As a young man, “I wasn’t a rad­i­cal,” the artist said. “I just got caught in the mid­dle of the bat­tle and joined the bat­tle. Once your heart is into f ight­ing the good f ight, you con­tinue it.”

The f lag paint­ings are sched­uled to re­main on view through Sept. 27.

L ag una Ar t Mu­seum

G. RAY KER­CIU cre­ated these works in the 1960s to de­cry the vi­o­lence as­so­ci­ated with the Con­fed­er­ate f lag. They will go on dis­play Satur­day in La­guna Beach.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.