Closing Reception Joe Hill 100 Years Part 4: May 1, 6-9pm

Featuring : "F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature." author William J. Maxwell. Join us as we launch our series on reparations for slavery with this May Day event.

William J. Maxwell is associate professor of English and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where he teaches modern American and African American literatures. He's the author of the award-winning book "New Negro, Old Left: African American Writing and Communism between the Wars" (Columbia University Press) and the editor of the first-ever collection of the "Complete Poems" of Harlem Renaissance pioneer Claude McKay (University of Illinois Press). In February, Princeton University Press published his latest book, based on over a hundred FOIA requests: "F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature. At first glance, few institutions seem more opposed than African American literature and J. Edgar Hoover’s white-bread Federal Bureau of Investigation. But behind the scenes the FBI’s hostility to black protest was energized by fear of and respect for black writing. Drawing on nearly 14,000 pages of newly released FBI files,"F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature" exposes the Bureau’s intimate policing of five decades of black poems, plays, essays, and novels. Starting in 1919, year one of Harlem’s renaissance and Hoover’s career at the Bureau, secretive FBI “ghostreaders” monitored the latest developments in African American letters. By the time of Hoover’s death in 1972, these ghostreaders knew enough to simulate a sinister black literature of their own. The official aim behind the Bureau’s close reading was to anticipate political unrest. Yet, as "F.B. Eyes" reveals, FBI surveillance came to influence the creation and public reception of African American literature in the heart of the twentieth century.

More about Jorge Franklin Cardenas:

“Standing tall in its place, Madrid awaited [the fascist invasion] with a spirit saturated with courage, ready to die if necessary, without a single thought of vile surrender or easy defeat ever crossing its mind. All the faces demonstrated the seriousness of the situation, and there was not any trace of fear visible. Next to the brave Madrilenos stood the entire Republic: people from Cataluna, the Basque region, from Andalucia, Extremadura, Valencia… and Castilla and Leon, and Galicia, representing all of Spain, they formed a wall to stop the unleashed assault of the fascist beast whose roar could be heard and whose claws had begun to tear painfully but not fatally at the city’s doors.” Jorge Franklin, In Madrid now for ten years: Madrid’s Resistance

The well-known artist and caricaturist George Franklin was born Jorge Daniel Julio Franklin de Cárdenas on October 17, 1910, in Bogota, Colombia, of a North American father and a South American mother, Maria Josefa Cárdenas, from a prominent family in Santa Marta, Colombia. The family lived for some time near her parents in Santa Marta.

It was in Santa Marta that one of the cataclysmic events that shaped Jorge’s life and strongly influenced his art occurred: A month long strike of banana workers in that region culminated on December 5, 1928, with a vicious attack by the army, which barricaded a Sunday gathering of workers and their families in the plaza, sprayed gunfire into the crowd from the four corners of the square, and killed hundreds, if not thousands of innocent workers, including women and children, creating a world-wide scandal. The soldiers threw bodies into the sea so the exact number could never be determined. Estimates from survivors range from 800 to 3000.

Jorge studied in Bogota until 1930 when he traveled to Spain for further training. He enrolled in the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Madrid. While still in school, he worked with the republican opposition to Franco, drawing anti-Franco cartoons for the anarchist union paper Solidaridad Obrera, Upon Franco’s rise to the presidency in 1939, Jorge was seized by the Falangist army, accused of drawing “socialist” caricatures and cartoons, and was sentenced to death. With intercession by the Colombian Consul General, Jorge was finally released. He returned to Bogota in 1941.

Even after his ordeal in prison, Jorge could not resist using his art as a gentle but forceful declaration of the world-wide struggle for human rights, and he continued to publish his cartoons and caricatures. The wry humor evident in his work, especially in his 1943 comic strip, ‘Prisoner Little Stripes’ (El Preso Reyitas), depicting the Little Prisoner’s imaginative plots for escape, is a subtle but nonetheless vehement protest against inequality and injustice. In 1946 he co-founded the magazine ‘Semana’, and drew caricatures for the magazine’s covers until after his departure from Colombia.

Jorge was caught up in civil unrest once again, when Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, the liberal candidate for president, was assassinated on April 9, 1948. Reportedly, a violent mob grabbed the alleged assassin from the police guards and ripped him apart on the street. Twelve hours of rioting followed, known as the ‘Bogotazo,’ during which every building in the capital city of Bogota was set afire. Although for a while afterwards Bogota remained relatively calm, the rioting caused by the assassination of Gaitan, coupled with the existing discontent of the workers in the countryside, spread into the rural areas and became known as ‘La Violencia,’ the bloodiest civil war in South American history. Unfortunately, there was no ‘right side’ for Jorge’s cartoons and caricatures, so in October of 1948 he fled to the United States, determined to lead a quieter life with his wife and two young children. He continued his artistic career first in Chicago and then in Miami Beach until his death in 1997.

Jorge’s son George and his wife knew little of Jorge’s life history until after his death, when his daughter-in-law Stephanie inherited the archives of his work. Jorge’s passionate belief in human rights, the extent of his fame, and the enormous respect accorded him by his associates and critics alike, are evidenced in the many articles and reviews of his work. An artist of unmistakable style, his work was exhibited in Spain, Colombia, and in Chicago and Miami in the United States, and has been published in numerous periodicals, magazines, reviews and books in many parts of the world. He was awarded prizes for his work in all three countries, where he was always inspired by the struggles of working people, the need for freedom of the mind and of democracy for the soul of man.



It has been said that humor is the highest refinement of intelligence. Jorge Franklin has chosen this difficult means to express himself. With his unmistakable style, Franklin has been able to convey his feelings through the faces of personalities, combining talent and humor in a very fortunate way.

Roberto Garcia A., Consul General of Colombia in the United States (In Miami)

Caricature has a life of its own; it can express that autonomy when it is the product of one of the most creative minds. From: Supplement of the “Caribe," from announcement of exhibit at the Institute of Culture in Santa Marta Colombia, SA 1979


Below is from: http://www.semana.com/especiales/articulo/el-humor-es-cosa-seria/36272-3
ESPECIALES | 1998/06/22 (an article published in SEMANA June 22, 1998, found Mar. 3, 2015)

De Pepe Mexía a Héctor Osuna, los caricaturistas han sido comentaristas de excepción del acontecer político y social de Colombia en el siglo XX.

HUMOR IS SERIOUS THING by Pepe Mexía Hector Osuna,
First sentence:
‘Se ha dicho que la caricatura primero hizo reír, luego ver y finalmente pensar.’ Translation:
“It has been said that the cartoon first makes one laugh, then watch and finally think.”

[from the last paragraph in the 3rd section:]
Cartoonists have been exceptional commentators on political and social events in Colombia in the twentieth century. The 40s left its mark on a generation that was in open rejection of classical art, and had a deep interest in forms of expression related to the Impressionist movement, Dada and Cubism. George Franklin was one of their representatives. In the way he manipulated the appearance in his caricatures, his cartooning was revolutionary, and there was no protagonist in public life that had not been reflected in his cubes, polyhedra, triangles and rectangles. His first published caricatures were in Universidad, the magazine directed by Germán Arciniegas, and once the refuge of artists and intellectuals, but his most outstanding works appear in El Tiempo, and in SEMANA, and where with Max Henríquez, he made the covers of the magazine a symbol of the era. While caricature is an obvious distortion, his place in the history of the genre has to do, above all, with his talent in fashioning one that expresses the character of the subject..
So much so that there are some who believe that with Franklin ended the era of the sublime portrait.

A biography of him at the end of this article: Jorge Franklin (1912) [He was born in 1910] Born in Bogotá, he began his studies in the School of Fine Arts, and in Spain continued his specialization in the Academy San Fernando, Madrid. He began his foray into the world of cartoons in the magazine University, led by Germán Arciniegas. The Spanish civil war prevented him from finishing his studies and he traveled to Barcelona, where he worked as an artist doing drawings for the the magazine Solidaridad Obrera. His relationship with this publication took him to prison at the hands of Franco's army in 1939. He was even sentenced to death but the sentence was not met because of the intervention of the Colombia consulate. Back in the country in the 40s, he became a partner in El Tiempo and began to use his talent on its appearance, influenced by the avant-garde trends, including Cubism. After performing an acclaimed solo exhibition, he became a SEMANA collaborator and made his cover a symbol of the publication. In 1950 [It was in October 1948] he traveled to America, where he currently lives.

[He did a caricature on every cover, weekly, of SEMANA, from the first issue in October of 1946 until the end of 1948, when he left quickly in the middle of the night, first to Mexico, and then to the United States. There were a few of his caricatures published on some of the covers after that. Perhaps there were already some in their files after he left, or perhaps he sent some from the US.]

More on James Wechsler’s Freedom of Information:

James Wechsler’s recent work takes as its subject documents obtained during his art historical research on connections between modernism and Communism. Requested through the Freedom of Information Act, a 1966 law that increased public access to the records and archives of government-run agencies such as the F.B.I., such documents, many of them recently de-classified, are often consulted by scholars to shed light on the government surveillance of suspected Communist sympathizers during the height of the Cold War. In total, they reveal a remarkable network of covert operations undertaken by the F.B.I., closely supervised by its long-time director J. Edgar Hoover, to monitor the movement and activities of American citizens and foreign nationals with left-leaning political views, including many well-known visual and performing artists. The atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia that enabled such policies was perhaps best exemplified by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his public diatribes in the early 1950s against those he suspected of Communist sympathies, and the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee that interrogated many well-known artists, writers, and entertainers over a much longer span of time, including the great African-American actor, orator, and Spingarn Medal recipient Paul Robeson, who features prominently in this exhibition.

The Documents that are the source for Wechsler’s paintings conceal rather than reveal their subjects. Instead of providing the sort of “information” that a would-be researcher would hope to find, they engage in a tortuous game of evasion that transforms readers of a purported text into viewers forced to negotiate a dense thicket of diagrammatic marks, hand-drawn lines, obscure symbols, stamps, and—most prominently of all—impenetrable blotches of redacted content. A text that at one time might have provided answers—names, places, dates—has been mercilessly transmogrified by a byzantine network of depersonalized government procedures into an unintentional work of “art,” the collaborative product of a series of anonymous bureaucrats.

The Paintings themselves call attention to the very techniques of obfuscation employed by government censors to impede the transmission (and freedom of) information. To this end, Wechsler takes advantage of the productively ambiguous position of his source material, which hovers between textual and visual means of address. He magnifies the scale of the documents, embeds them in a field of modulated colors, and blurs or occasionally omits entirely the legible parts of their original text. This amplifies the visual punch of the redactions themselves, but also deftly diffuses their potency. No longer securely coupled to the text that they were intended to nullify, the oppressive power of the redactions disintegrates precisely because they are now, in Wechsler’s work, successfully dis-integrated from their original mission and released into the realm of aesthetics, set before the public as abstract forms open to free and unimpeded critical analysis. Gestures once intended to cover-up meaning and identity are now, in Wechsler’s art, made to defiantly declare the re-inscribed presence of their human subjects.

--Guy Jordan, Assistant Professor Art History,
Department of Art, Western Kentucky University

May - September: 40 Acres and a Mule:

A Series of Visual Art Shows and Discussions about Reparations for Slavery—Some highlights: MAY: Corporate Scofflaws: Hiding Profits from Slavery in Chicago: Title 2, Chapter 92, Section 585 of the Chicago Municipal Code. Some of Chicago's largest companies profited from the European slave trade. Today, they are still covering their tracks- Larry Redmond,

JUNE: The Chicago Alliance of African American Photographers,

JULY: Quilombos in Brazil‏,

SEPTEMBER: Joyce Owens Anderson

October: Chicago Artist Month and Pilsen Open Studios

November: Joe Hill 100 Years Part 5

December: Human Rights Day Show

URI-EICHEN Gallery 2101 South Halsted
CHICAGO Illinois 60608



Second Fridays of the Month


6PM - 10PM