I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of
man...the Jungian thing, sir.�
- Private Joker Full Metal Jacket
The Posters of Discontent was a 2008 political poster art exhibition curated by Professor Andrew Maniotes. This exhibition was shown at University Gallery, Eastern Michigan University and Rebecca Randal Bryan Art Gallery, Costal Carolina University
"It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." - Albert Einstein, Treasury of the Free World (October 1946)
Like fire and molotovs, politics and poster design go together. Be it campaign, unity, policy enforcement, or protest--political posters leave a visual imprint on history.
This exhibition seeks to examine points of contention in the current sociopolitical arena. Designers from various backgrounds were invited to submit work taking a stand on subjects of their choosing, created within the last four years. As a result, the work showcases multiple and often conflicting viewpoints.
2008-2012 saw a rise of people taking issues to the public arena. Many of those protests can be seen in this exhibition, be it The Little Friends of Printmaking standing up for Union workers in their native Wisconsin, Tim Cramer echoing the message of the Tea Party by portraying the American President as an all powerful villain, Alexander Segert lamenting the perceived danger of Muslim immigration in Switzerland, Jenni Undis referencing Minnesota's soon to be voted on same-sex marriage debate, Evripides Zantides portraying what the Euro means to his native Cyprus or Jason Killinger invoking of the spirit of Occupy Wall Street as he contrasts the prioritization of funding in Philadelphia prisons vs. schools. Despite different ideologies, all the designers in this exhibition shared the same sense of conviction in their beliefs.
Many thanks to my colleagues who encouraged me to put this show together. Gallery Director Gregory Tom and his staff provided expertise in hanging the exhibition. I am also grateful to my loving and supportive wife, Kristy Cooper, for her design collaboration and web development in creating this site.
It is the curator's wish that these visual expressions of conflict act as a foundation to political dialogue. Designers across the political spectrum should take this show as a visual call to arms. Viewers should ask themselves if they agree or disagree with any of these works; then think about it, talk about it, give a crap about it... and create work about it. Do not worry who is "offended", but rather how many will be inspired to think about your views.
Poster design has a rich history tied to politics and activism. Be it a strong Rosie the Riveter stating We Can Do It and rolling her sleeves up to help production for World War II, the authoritative patriotism of Maos China, the remembrance of revolutionary leader Che Guevara, or Sheppard Fairy asking us repeatedly just who and what it is that we tend to blindly Obey, we have witnessed political posters attain a level of iconic stature and find a distinct voice.
The last eight years have been a tumultuous time in history and politics. We have seen major upheavals in America and abroad following 9/11, which had large scale governmental and military actions as a result. As we saw in Vietnam, times of war, especially the more publicly disapproved wars, tend to bring out the poster makers to voice opinions and often make the public question the official policies and status quo. I wished this show to be a similar visual call to arms. This show and catalog serve as a snap shot of contemporary political issues.
I approached designers with a history of political activism, such as Milton Glaser, David Tartakover and Jonathan Barnbrook. Others were asked based on a large body of poster work like Brian Chippendale and Jen McKnight. The designers were instructed to submit new or old work of a political or social nature of their choosing. In most cases, I had no idea what subject they would address or what stance on the issue they would take.
I was pleased to find designers in seven countries who wished to participate, and the show is stronger as a result of this national and cultural variety. All the designers have my thanks for their efforts and the generous donation of the posters to Eastern Michigan University's permanent art collection, which will be a great boon to our students.
Many thanks to my colleagues in the art department who encouraged me to put this show together. Gallery Director Larry Newhouse and Michelle Hartung provided expertise in hanging the exhibition while Dr. Julia Myers edited the catalog. I am grateful to Kristy Cooper for her design collaboration and web development expertise in creating this site.
It is my desire that students will take something from the experience. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the various works, we urge the student to become more involved and add to the dialogue. Visual artists should produce their own work and start their own dialogues.
Above all else, make your voting choices wisely.