November 16, 2018

ADL hosts an evening of contemporary art for social change

The concept of a world without hate remains as powerful — and, alas, as elusive — as ever. As the theme of the Anti-Defamation League’s ArtWorks auction on Oct. 22, that idea brings together dozens of local artists and allows supporters of ADL’s mission to assemble for a cause. 

Like ADL’s first such gathering in 2013, this year’s “ArtWorks ADL: Justice, Advocacy & Art” reception and auction will bring artists and art lovers alike to the home of Jeanne and Tony Pritzker. More than 40 artists have donated works that will be displayed and sold, with all proceeds benefitting ADL. Event organizers are expecting more than 400 attendees.

“In its first iteration, this event was more of a ‘friendraiser,’ a fun way to get together, have a nice evening and buy some art,” said Amanda Susskind, regional director of ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region. 

The 2013 event raised $410,000, out-earning the combined totals of all ADL chapters that organized similar events. Organizers hope to at least match that amount at this year’s event.  

“I’ve heard time and again from artists, from gallery owners and from attendees how much of a win-win event this is,” said Diane Lazar, director of major gifts for ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region. “You can come to this event and be a 23-year-old attorney who is just starting out, and you’re shmoozing with somebody who has been in the art industry for dozens of years. The venue is beautiful, the art is beautiful and we’re promoting dialogue.”

Although that dialogue may not permeate the event itself, it certainly is a major reason the artists and ADL supporters will be gathering. 

The event’s theme, “Imagine a world without hate,” is the same as 2013’s, and the ADL has created a powerful 80-second video to help drive it home. The video shows contemporary men and women accessing news stories, both in newspapers and online, trumpeting the feats that reformers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Yitzhak Rabin, Matthew Shepard and Harvey Milk might have achieved had they not died prematurely. King champions immigration reform. Anne Frank wins the Nobel Prize following the success of her 12th novel. Rabin is lauded for promoting two decades of Israeli-Palestinian peace. 

“If we all stood up to bigotry,” the video concludes, “we could change history.”

“It [was] the theme of our centennial, and it resonates with the artists,” Susskind said. “The ADL fights bigotry of all kinds and in so many different ways. The theme works, so why change it?”

The 42 artists participating in ArtWorks span a variety of personal and professional backgrounds as well as artistic disciplines. They run the gamut from 23-year-old pop surrealist Otiswoods to USC Fine Arts professor Ruth Weisberg to film director and producer Brett Ratner. Twelve artists who participated in 2013 will be back for ArtWorks 2015. Joining them are artists who have been selected to participate based on their backgrounds and to make the variety as diverse as possible, according to Lazar. 

A photograph that George Legrady took at Israel’s Jaffa Gate in 1970 has been reworked into a lenticular narrative format, meaning that when a viewer walks around the image and views it from different perspectives, he sees multiple images — like a moving postcard that tells a story of past and present with three images.

Legrady shot the original image from a hotel room that cost him $2 per night. When he returned to Israel last month, much had changed visually and politically. 

“Back then, it was just dirt. Now there’s a wall around the city of Jerusalem and a luxury shopping mall attached to that wall,” said Legrady, who chairs the department of media arts and technology and is the director of the Experimental Visualization Lab at UC Santa Barbara. “Photographs are stamped with history like postcards. You can see a postcard from 40 [or] 50 years ago and right away see it has a historical and time imprint to it.”

Although he supports the ADL and the message of the evening, Legrady concedes that the theme is “utopian.”

“A world without hate would involve everyone having their own sense of being treated well and respected,” Legrady said. “That’s getting more and more challenging.” 

Two years ago, when she participated in ArtWorks 2013, Seonna Hong donated a small landscape painting. For this year’s event, she opted for a mixed-media work titled “Brightness and Contrast.” Because the piece contains bright colors and children at play, the artist felt its hopefulness was appropriate for this event.

In contemplating themes of hope and the absence of hate, Hong — an Emmy Award-winning production designer — considered the perspective of her young daughter, Tiger Lily.

“I’m an Asian woman, and I would say the most surprising thing when you’re on the inside looking out is that you don’t know why people are treating you differently,” Hong said. “Now I have a half-Asian daughter and I look at her and I think in some ways she’s got it easier and in some ways it’s harder, and she’s straddling more worlds and more cultures because of what her makeup is.”  

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