Urban environmental art is also part of the Artists Take Action exhibit at Wesleyan.
(April 22, 2013)
Protest Art is all the rage. And yet it's often so orderly, calm and collected. Currently it's collected at Wesleyan's Davison Art Gallery in the exhibit Artists Take Action: Protest Posters Today. Many of the posters relate to the nationwide 2011 Occupy Movement. The attention to art of Occupy is natural since the movement was initially inspired by the graphics- driven political magazine Adbusters. Some of the best posters, like some of the best works in Adbusters, take instantly recognizable iconography and turns the images into fresh anti- corporate messages. The mustachioed Monopoly man is seen dancing on the American flag. A Pez dispenser has a fracked mountaintop for a head and is ejecting a block of coal instead of candy.There's a citizen's- own- surveillance take on the British "Keep Calm and Carry On" slogan, transposed to "Keep Calm and Camera On." Most use silkscreen techniques and bright colors, but make clear that poster art has developed a bit since its obvious anti-war art ancestors of the 1910s and 1960s. The Occupy posters come from all over-- California, Michigan, New York-- so it's a little sad not to see any representation of Occupy New Haven which after all was one of longest-surviving Occupy settlements in the United States. New Haven' s Occupy certainly fomented plenty of art, but no iconic poster art. Artists Take Action isn't all about the one percent. The exhibit also touches on community gardening, violence against women, minority rights and various worthy community uprisings. One whole section is a portfolio of posters published by the Justseeds Artists Cooperative and the Iraq Veterans Against the War, collectively entitled War is Trauma. Justseeds also its behind a 22-print subset of the exhibit called Resourced and devoted to environmental issues. Artists Take Action is a small show-- just a hundred or so posters in a single small room-- but a powerful and strident one. Its call to action is recent, not at all nostalgic, and remains inspirational as both art and social agitation. The Davison Art Gallery is at 301 High Street, Middletown; (860) 685-2500, www.wesleyan.edu/dac On Wednesday, April 24 at 5 p.m. in the CFA Hall of the Wesleyan Center for the Arts (a stone's throw from Davison) there's a panel discussion on "Art and Social Justice" related to the Artists Take Action exhibit and featuring Meredith Stern, Marshall Weber and Josh MacPhee, who have art in the show.