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The Columbus Museum of Art Honors Local Legend Sid Chafetz
Video edited and produced by Ashley Brook.
Printmaker Sidney Chafetz has seen a lot of the world in his 89 years. He came of age during the Great Depression, saw ground combat in World War II and taught at the Ohio State University for the nearly four politically charged decades spanning the Civil Rights Era and the early Reagan years.
As an artist, Chafetz couldn’t ignore the upheaval around him. So instead, he picked up his chisel and went to work.
“I was discouraged by the role of politics in everyday life, where instead of working for the public good, people were looking for individual advantage,” Chafetz said. ”Politics has changed, but still those old problems of politics working for their own advantage rather than public welfare and good are still around us. So I’ve had to comment on that.”
An exhibition of Chafetz’s prints from the earliest days of his career to today is on display at the Columbus Museum of Art through September 23.
“Sid turns 90 next year and so (the exhibition) was on the cusp of this new era,” said Columbus Museum of Art curator Melissa Wolfe. ”He was a phenomenal printmaker very early in his career. He had also created a new series that had not been on display at the museum yet: his (George W.) Bush series, a new political engagement for him. And I wanted to show him as continuing to be an incredibly engaged printmaker. So (the exhibition) runs all the way from the ’40s up until today and covers pretty much every one of his major themes that he’s known for.”
Through those themes, Chafetz’s artwork tells the tales of one who has lived. Trenchant commentary on political corruption, expressions of horrified indignation over the Holocaust and biting satire of academic hypocrisy beam like lasers through an assured printmaking technique and straight into viewers’ minds and souls. The social resonance of Chafetz’s work also has earned his prints places in some of the world’s most prestigious art collections.
But although the social criticism in Chafetz’s prints often cuts like a chisel to the bone, the artist’s philosophical bottom line informs every print he makes: “human beings count, politics counts, kindness counts.”