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Critic Missed the Point

March 21, 1992

As an avid reader of The Times and a patron of various Orange County art exhibitions, I was appalled by the pathetic review of "The Year of the White Bear" on March 5 by Cathy Curtis ("A Safe Look at Aborigines in Captivity").

Ms. Curtis concluded her review with the statement that the analogy between cultural persecution in colonial Latin America and today's attacks on the NEA and the CPB is "inadequate." I submit that Ms. Curtis is either ignorant of the facts or is missing the purpose of the art altogether.

Jesse Helms would submit legislation to limit funds to the NEA and CPB solely because of his perceived leftist bias of their subjects. Apparently only his version of what is art and what is acceptable programming should be available for public consumption. Patrick Buchanan would control the investigative journalism of "MacNeil/Lehrer" and "All Things Considered" so that they might not look closely at possible Iran-Contra and Clarence Thomas-type scandals.

Robert Dole summarizes it upsettingly well for his two colleagues when he says that "the public broadcasting media is far too left-wing." Certainly to these right-wing extremists, almost anything toward the center would be far to the left! There is a great danger to free speech and democracy when legislators would seek control and gag artistic expression and sound journalism, especially when the public media remain among the best means for diverse programming.

The purpose of the Gomez-Pena exhibit was to use art as a vehicle to express such a politico-cultural problem in the not-always-so-free United States and to relate it to racial discrimination and violence. The powerful right wing would by law and deed "cage" leftist art. The socially irresponsible, white middle- and upper-classes happily use the labor, goods and food of the Mexicans but would prefer to have the people confined to neighborhoods other than their own.

Gomez-Pena's art is socially responsible. It speaks for those who cannot speak. That is one of its purposes. If it seems to Ms. Curtis that the denunciations and rejections of historical crimes and legislation and their correlation to today's reality were too preachy and not analogous, then she has no idea what is is to be a Chicano living in a colonized land.


Costa Mesa

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