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Political Art at Harvard: Wake-Up Call for Artists?

Another curatorial nudge (like John Elderfield’s Manet show) that seems to be calling attention to the dearth of political art in our politically unsettled times: “DISSENT!,” to Feb. 25, at Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum. Organized by the museum’s print curator, Susan Dackerman, the show is described in its press release as:
…an exhibition of 62 prints, books, postcards, posters, magazines, t-shirts, and playing cards, presents an historical survey of printed images that express resistance to oppressive religious, political, and social systems….[It] demonstrates the role of artists in the dissemination of opinions and the cultivation of public debate and dialogue, and showcases how important these works were during a number of significant historical periods, many times leading to social or political change.
The show includes everything from Goya to Picasso to Ben Shahn to Andy Warhol to Richard Serra (his “STOP B S,” 2004, appropriating the infamous image of a hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner and deleting two letters from President Bush‘s name).
In case there was any question about whether the curator intended this as a wake-up call for today’s artists, Dackerman provides this comment in the press release:
It is important to exhibit and explicate works such as these within the setting of a museum, especially a teaching museum where we encourage the unsettling of settled opinions. Through the course of history, artists have played an important role in the promulgation of dissonant opinions through printmaking.
I hope this exhibition will provide the opportunity to examine that role by turning the gallery into a place of public discourse and initiating a critical dialogue about the work, its history, and most importantly, its implications for the future.

At a time when commercial careerism seems to be the driving force for so many young artists, a few concerned curators are pointing the way towards a different path.

an ArtsJournal blog