UAM posters motivate, promote 'Peace'http://www.daily49er.com/diversions/uam-posters-motivate-promote-peace-1.2627786
Published: Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The University Art Museum's latest exhibition, "Peace Press Graphics 1967-1987: Art in the Pursuit of Social Change," delivers all of the power a raised fist could punch with.
The exhibit is a testament to propaganda's allure, displaying more than 100 posters and other printed materials, such as books, stickers, magazines and brochures. Almost all of these harbor the voice of change toward their time's political ideology.
During its day, Peace Press filled the void between progressive groups fighting for gay liberation, anti-war support or civil rights and the commercial printers who refused them.
One of the first pieces on display in this exhibition, Jerry Palmer's 1969 "Printing for the People," embodies their mission. Palmer prints a reproduction of Pablo Picasso's 1937 painting "Guernica" above a block of text supporting Peace Press. Picasso's "Guernica" is one of the most iconic instances of fine art crossing into propaganda; a notion that Peace Press seemed to have mastered.
Further blurring those lines of high art and mass production is "0 Hour," a poster created by Carol Wells, George Fuller and Jazz Press in 1980. It combines illustration with excerpts from Ernesto Cardenal's poem "Zero Hour," discussing the dictatorships of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The poster honors Cardenal's ideology of writing poems "to nonviolently protest injustice."
Viewers can admire Craig Calsbeck's 1989 "Earth Day" for its beautiful illustration, which could easily exhibit outside the propagandist realm. In contrast, there is also an abundance of overt graphic design, intriguing for their communicative persuasiveness and effective conveyance of opinion. A 1980 poster for the National Organization for Women, using photography by Hella Hammid and text by Deena Metzger, reads quick but the clever message sticks with you: "Woman's place is in the House… and in the Senate."
Though all the work is not so quirky, with such serious plight there will obviously be serious resistance. Mark Vallen's 1971 "Evict Nixon!" illustrates the fiery ideological depths sometimes needed to convey a message effectively. Vallen illustrates Richard Nixon with "Nixon" written underneath, but the "x" replaced with a swastika. In the same regards, a 1978 poster for the National Student Center of Thailand illustrates a blood-ridden battle with the blunt message: "Down with Imperialism, Feudalism, and Bureaucrat Capitalism."
However, some of the posters turn that radical opposition into comedy, as the best propaganda often will. An anti-communist ad for Scott Tissue Towels asks, "Is your washroom breeding Bolsheviks?" and another poster appropriates Alberto Korda's iconic image of Che Guevara to reassure, "There will be many Che's."
The majority of posters exercise the admirable aesthetic in iconic imagery: quickly read, visually harmonized, subversive but not shockingly radical and containing a message. They are something nice to look at but that also tells us how to better the world. Dave "Buffalo" Greene's 1976 "Free Richard Mohawk Paul Skyhorse" falls into that category with its highly-rendered figures and humanitarian message to "free all political prisoners."
A large timeline of all relevant events from 1965-1989 is displayed on a museum wall. The degree of political change in that time span is impressive, and one could attribute Peace Press' to be a large proprietor. If Peace Press' radical conviction was among its greatest achievements, it apparently came with a price. Several of its employees reportedly "served jail terms for refusing to serve in the military."
But for those who don't agree that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, and these posters for the Black Panther Party, United Farm Workers, and Woman's Building movement don't interest… amongst them are commercial posters Peace Press did in order to "offer discounted and pro bono services to movement groups." One might enjoy seeing iconic concert posters for Santana, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Tom Waits, Jerry Garcia and Herbie Hancock, to name a few.
The "Peace Press" exhibit will be on display until Dec. 11. The UAM is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.; Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m.; and is closed Mondays and all university holidays. Admission is free for students and $4 for the general public.