Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Printing Company Refuses to Release Abu Ghraib Image for Exhibition



Jason Wilson, 415-865-0799

Stephen Tourell, 415-989-6444
stephen at toomey-tourell dot com


Aberrant Last Minute Decision Impacts Gallery Opening, Angers Art Community

SAN FRANCISCO -- October 19th, 2004 -- Hundreds of art enthusiasts attending the recent opening of South African born artist, Clinton Fein’s, latest exhibition were greeted with a revised exhibition after Palo Alto-based printing company, Zazzle, destroyed two of Fein’s giant images.

Click to Enlarge
Clinton Fein
Like Apple Fucking Pie

Fein learned of the last minute decision after a company representative informed him that two of his images had been deemed inappropriate, and Zazzle did not want to be associated with the images. The abrupt decision by the printing company altered the presentation of the exhibition and damaged the integrity of editions already released by the company.

The one image, recently reviewed at Chelsea’s Axis Gallery by New York Times’ Ken Johnson, who described it as “an American flag with the stars and stripes made from the text of the official Abu Ghraib report is accompanied by fifty representations of the iconic image of a hooded man teetering on a box with wires trailing from his arms comprising the stars.

Click to Enlarge
Clinton Fein
Who Would Jesus Torture?

The second image depicting President Bush on a crucifix entitled “Who Would Jesus Torture?” was also withheld by the printing company. Company spokesperson, Matt Wilsey, claimed the image might “offend Christians,” and threatened to sue Fein for defamation after Fein warned he would publicly criticize the company’s actions.

Clinton Fein is a prominent First Amendment advocate successfully fought former Attorney General, Janet Reno, in a challenge to the Communications Decency Act (CDA) that was heard before the United States Supreme Court.

"It’s unfortunate that a printing service felt it was more important to apply a bizarre, inconsistently applied standard to an image that nobody ever would have associated with them anyway,” said Clinton Fein. “Particularly since they printed the very image reviewed by The New York Times. When printers begin exercising editorial control over the content they print, standards need to be clear and consistent.”

The Palo Alto based company publicizes among its associates, ironically, The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace which defines itself as a “prominent contributor to the world marketplace of ideas defining a free society,” and The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

The company claimed Fein’s Abu Ghraib flag represented “excessive violence,” although the image would not have been visible or available through Zazzle. Although Zazzle does hawk a reproduction of a Library of Congress photograph of the hanging hooded bodies of the four conspirators who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, and other violent war imagery, Fein had not granted the company permission to use or display his images, attach their name to his work, nor release any information relating to the content of the work or his relationship with the company.

In subsequent media reports, Wilsey cited a licensee relationship with Disney and acknowledged that the company had first printed the work before they destroyed it. Included in the repertoire of the entertainment conglomerate are films 'Dogma' and 'Priest', both of which have drawn the ire of Catholics ranging from protests to boycotts. The Walt Disney Company has yet to comment on the destruction of art by its licensees.

"I don’t know what kind of statement such business practices make about academic freedom and thought in a democracy, but when a company associates itself with major brands and institutions it needs to be very careful about the corporate image they present and the consistency of the positions they take," stated Fein, who is still weighing his legal options. “This is the wrong fight to pick, with the wrong person, at the wrong time. I'd be interested to know exactly how this printer 'destroys' art."

Clinton Fein's exhibition, Numb and Number, opens at Toomey Tourell Gallery at 49 Geary Street on Thursday, October 7, 2004 at 5.30pm.

The related images can be found on the site at:

Like Apple Fucking Pie

Who Would Jesus Torture?

Annoy.com has been involved in public controversies in the past, and has been a strong First Amendment advocate, having fought censorship before the Supreme Court in ApolloMedia v. Reno, and before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in United States v. ApolloMedia.

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Corporate Policy Leads to Political Censorship
By Molouk Y. Ba-Isa
Arab News
January 11, 2005

Artist and advocate Clinton Fein has his controversial images destroyed prior to exhibition
By Kresta Tyler Johnson
ArtThrob Magazine
November 4, 2004

His art is not subtle. It can be hard to take. But Clinton Fein is not afraid to make a statement.
By Kenneth Baker
San Francisco Chronicle
November 2, 2004

Printer rebels at artist's imagery
By Louise Roug
The Los Angeles Times
October 13, 2004

2 of Clinton Fein's political works run afoul of his printer's policies
By Kenneth Baker
The San Francisco Chronicle
October 12, 2004

Annoy.com Webmaster says war art censored
By Paul Festa
October 6, 2004

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By Jack Fischer
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October 6, 2004

Local Artist Censored: Printing Company Refuses To Release Abu Ghraib Images For Exhibition
Not In Our Name Press Release
October 5, 2004


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