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Numb & Number: October 7 - November 13, 2004

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  Detail from They Build Walls

They Build Walls, 2004
NUMB & NUMBER: An Exhibition    

About the Show

Numb & Number follows on the momentum of Clinton Fein's acclaimed New York exhibition, WARNING!, of which New York Times' Ken Johnson wrote: "This South African provocateur's vitriolic, darkly comic digital montages attack President Bush, his cabinet and his Iraq policies."

Numb & Number features digital collages and photo-based work reflecting on the last four years of the Bush Administration. From a misuse of the term fuzzy math that shaped the 2000 election to the daily count of the dead and wounded in the war in Iraq, the show focuses on the extent to which numbers are used to numb, confuse and manipulate an increasingly insecure public.

Fein's digital "Weapons of Mass Destruction" are Photoshop, videos, music, poetry, text, photography and imported images off the Internet. Seamless assemblages, photomontages, crude imagery and irony make up a virtual diary of the missteps and calamities of a second Bush regime.

Find out more here: Clinton Fein and the Art of Political Protest by Deborah Phillips.

  Untitled, Welcome to NY Series
Untitled, Welcome to NY Series, 2004

Gallery Talk

Gallery Talk, Informal Discussion
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
6.30 - 8.00 pm

The Numb & Number exhibition deals with current events, the horrors and anguish of war and death as depicted in the graphic editorialized images of Clinton Fein.

Presenting challenging material, political art, activist art in a commercial gallery is a risky business just as it is for museum administrators and professionals.

Join Clinton Fein, Stephen Tourell and Nancy Toomey for an interactive gallery talk (produced by Program Director, Hanna Regev), relating to the content of the exhibition. The discussion will include the issues and motivation behind staging a potentially controversial exhibition at a precarious moment in time.

For more information, contact: nancy@toomey-tourell.com.

  Guns Don't Kill, 2004
Guns Don't Kill, Welcome to NY Series, 2004
NUMB & NUMBER: Related Material  

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Artist's Statement

Over the last four years, numbers have shaped our reality. While Al Gore received 50,996,582 votes, George W. Bush gained 271 electoral college votes -- enough to win the election after a five-four majority of the United States Supreme Court reversed a decision by the Florida Supreme Court to order hand recounts of disputed votes. While just one senator could have changed the course of the election by listening to the representatives of disenfranchised constituents, 49 senators voted in favor of implementing the Patriot Act which they had not yet read.

  • 5, 674 former soldiers -- mostly people who recently left the service and have up-to-date skills in military policing, engineering, logistics, medicine or transportation -- will be assigned to National Guard and Reserve units scheduled to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, the Army announced June 2004.
  • 784 service members in 2003 alone -- more than 37 of them Arab-speaking linguists -- were fired for being gay.
  • 6 defendants -- a "few bad apples" -- are deemed responsible for the institutionalized abuse resulting in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.
  • 53 pages of vividly detailed and comprehensively documented investigation conducted by General Antonio Taguba gathered dust at the Pentagon until 1 low-resolution photo of a hooded Iraqi attached to electrical wires destroyed America's self-imposed moral superiority.
  • 1, 032 + American servicemembers have died since the war began, and more than 7,032 have been wounded.
  • 12, 778 Iraqi civilians have died since the war began according to a very conservatively estimated minimum by Iraq Body Count, a project which publishes casualty figures derived solely from a comprehensive survey of online media reports.
  • 20,000 Iraqi men, between the ages of 15 and 81 have been detained in Iraq since the invasion began, as conservatively estimated by human rights groups at the break of the Abu Ghraib scandal.
  • 90 percent of Iraqis detained in American-controlled prisons there were arrested "by mistake" according the Red Cross.
  • 100, 000 protestors marched to Madison Square Garden on Sunday August 29th to denounce the Republican National Convention in New York according to the New York Police Department.
  • 500, 000 protestors marched to Madison Square Garden on Sunday August 29th to denounce the Republican National Convention in New York according to the organizers of the march.
  • 0 "administration officials" have been found accountable for leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to Robert Novak and other "media personalities."
  • 1, 000, 000 more viewers tuned into a second broadcasting of Paris Hilton's "The Simple Life" than an exclusive live interview with President Bush on ABC on which he stated Saddam Hussein should be executed when captured.
  • 90, 000, 000 people watched 1 nipple mar the Superbowl.
The ability of the human mind to filter and selectively apply extraneous variables in the formulation of decisions is what constitutes intelligence. The mind's tolerance of imprecision, uncertainty and partial truth allows it to achieve flexibility, robustness and pliability. This is both a foundation and goal in the design of intelligent technology. The human mind, however, is susceptible to quaint such notions as fatigue, blurry vision, unruly mobs, partisanship, media influence, lies, propaganda and a host of other such external influences that limit effectiveness in its pursuit of speed, precision and accuracy.

It seems the more numbers we are exposed to, the number we get.

Read the whole statement>

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, 2004
60" x 70"(Detail)

Artist's Biography

In a world of superficial sound bytes dominated by a generation absorbed with the self and the surface of things, Clinton Fein's work dissects the vicissitudes of our body politic, pricking the raw nerves that the increasingly conservative mass media tiptoes around. Fein's politically charged art offers social critique through compelling, aggressive, and daring images. He subverts existing imagery by digitally altering, manipulating, and collaging fragments to create striking images that shock, mock, and amuse. George W. Bush becomes King Kong atop the World Trade Center, flailing futilely at inbound airplanes. Condoleeza Rice becomes Marie Antoinette, complacent in finery and bewailing the lack of forewarning of imminent turmoil. "The Last Supper" becomes peopled by the President's cabinet and cronies over a slogan proclaiming "Better Be the Last." The overwhelmed face in Edvard Munch's "Scream" becomes Bush's, or perhaps the American Everyman who did not elect him.

These images are not mannered or labored; they shoot fast from the hip and are produced at a prodigious rate, promulgated through Fein's website, Annoy.com, in a one-man parallel of the mass media news cycle. On the website, they are amplified by charged "editorial" commentary, whether in prose, verse, or parodies of popular lyrics. This continual program of publication can be read as constituting a type of performance art that simultaneously performs politics through activism.

Read the whole biography >


Clinton Fein

Clinton Fein

Reviews and Media Coverage

This South African provocateur's vitriolic, darkly comic digital montages attack President Bush, his cabinet and his Iraq policies (The New York Times) ... The printing service, called Zazzle, informed artist Clinton Fein on Monday that it would not release two of six images for "Numb & Number," an exhibit of Fein's deliberately provocative political art (San Jose Mercury News) ... Bad-boy political artist Clinton Fein expects trouble and regularly gets it (The San Francisco Chronicle) The company made its decision after determining the prints violated the site's user agreement on the grounds of being both offensive to religious believers--in this case Christians--and excessively violent (C|NET) .. excessive violence as well as derogatory references to religion (Los Angeles Times) ... Clinton Fein's scalding "Numb & Number" show at the Toomey Tourell Gallery features grim photographs of the war dead and wounded in Iraq ... a depiction of Bush as a crucified Christ with a warhead sprouting from his loincloth and a lettered screed on one work about a "crude, pathetic, ugly thief who is propped up by his Daddy's oil interests." The leader of the free world, as Fein reviles him with unchecked, ad hominem poison, is in "a Jimmy Beam-induced, unfortunately non-fatal, pretzel-choking, 'with us or against us' paradigm. (The San Francisco Chronicle) ... Among the rattling images in Fein's "Numb & Number" show is one of Cheney and Dianne Feinstein's faces melded together and another of bin Laden as the Statue of Liberty holding Bush's severed head aloft. (The San Francisco Chronicle) ... A current show by another artist-activist, Clinton Fein, called "Numb and Number" at the Toomey-Tourell gallery in San Francisco features digital montages that take off viciously against the current administration. (San Jose Mercury News) ... No Mister Nice Guy art at Toomey Tourell, just pure blunt force trauma. Clinton Fein's imagery may go as far beyond the line as any in expressing sentiments about the current world situation, and about the United States, the War in Iraq, and the Bush administration in particular. If you want to see complete and total venom conveyed through art, see "Numb and Number" and visit Fein's seditious brainchild, annoy.com. This is the type of stuff that buckets you a first class trip to oblivion in many parts of the world, but not here in America, The Land of the Free (ArtBusiness.com) ... Clinton Fein expresses outright scorn at the Bush Administration ... His show, entitled "Numb & Number," is the most potent political art of the year (The Berkeley Camera Club) ... California artist Clinton Fein is used to getting flak for his blatantly political and often shocking artworks ... ultra-provocative content (ArtsJournal.com) ... Home to geek wizards who invented high-resolution imaging technologies that have revolutionized the art scene - home to a digital printing company that has, alas, in this season of partisan fervor, censored two politically-charged art works: that's Silicon Valley! ... why is it censorship if a private business decides not to do business with an artist? Are we not allowed to run our business the way we want to, to work with whom we want to? Or, was this a ploy by Fein to get some publicity for his show ... which was launching that same week? (Silicon Valley Watcher) His art is not subtle. It can be hard to take. But Clinton Fein is not afraid to make a statement ... Many viewers must wonder whether such low-blow assaults have caused Fein to disown any of his past work... One of the least scabrous but hardest to take pieces in his show lays the words "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" over a grid of photographs from various sources documenting Iraqi war casualties... A lot of Clinton Fein's political art looks facile, even puerile, to those who see only its inflammatory side, not that he really cares. (The San Francisco Chronicle) ... What's Fein's sin? Politically confrontational art that aggressively makes use of emotionally charged imagery (Surface magazine)

Select Media Coverage/Reviews

By Ken Johnson, The New York Times

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

Using the Canvas to Canvass
By Jack Fischer, The San Jose Mercury News
October 31, 2004

As Nov. 2 nears, artists get in their last licks, sending up Bush and company on center stage
By Steve Winn, The San Francisco Chronicle
October 20, 2004

Political artist loses printer over images
By Louise Roug, The Los Angeles Times
October 16, 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

First Thursday Art Openings; San Francisco
By Alan Bamberger, ArtBusiness.com
October 7, 2004

Print shop refuses to release political images
By Jack Fischer, The San Jose Mercury News
October 6, 2004

Annoy.com Webmaster says war art censored
Paul Festa, C|NET
October 6, 2004

Gallery Information

San Francisco Exhibition

Thursday, October 7 - November 13, 2004

Toomey Tourell Gallery
49 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94118

Stephen Tourell
Nancy Toomey


E-mail: info@toomey-tourell.com

Phone: 415. 989 6444
Fax: 415. 989 6446


Rest in Pieces, 2004
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