Friday, January 6, 2012
Social Commentary and Satire: Injustice and the Artists Role
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- Protest is in the air. Just a cursory gaze at an array of periodicals, newspapers, or TV broadcasts, and you’ll get the sense that something is afoot on the world’s stage. Even Time Magazine designated their annual Person of the Year award to “The Protestor.”
One common feature of most protest movements is that unrest abounds: People are seeking truth, answers, and solutions to alleviate suffering or rectify abuses to the human predicament. When they don’t find them, they react---usually through protest.
Even art galleries and artists are joining the protest, albeit in a mellow, thoughtful way.
In the January 2010 issue of Art in America, journalist Erin Sickler stated, “Clearly, it’s time for people of conscience in the art world to stand up and say, “Enough!”i
Sickler went on to write about Occupy Museums, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The description of the exhibit states, “This exhibition will examine artists who comment on society by drawing attention to injustice or poking fun at the human condition.”
As I entered the exhibit, my first thought was, Wow—what an impressive collection of art. Even with New Mexico being the third largest art market in the United States (with Santa Fe taking most of the prestige,) I was impressed with the collection accumulated by the Albuquerque museum.
With works by Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), T. C. Cannon (1946-1978), Fritz Scholder (1937-2005), and Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945), the exhibit is brilliant in both scope and purpose.
I was unduly impressed as I walked around the West Gallery looking at art that touched upon themes such as war, racism, poverty, political unrest, and the human struggle for dignity.
I was particularly pleased with Stan Natchez’ Forked Tongues (1992), T.C. Cannon’s Waiting For the Bus (1977), Fritz Scholders’ Indian in Paris (1976), Robert Rauschenberg’s Horsefeathers Thirteen- VIII (1972), Kathe Kollwitz’s Losbruch (1902), and Andy Warhol’s Mao (1972).
The feelings that the art elicited in my mind were far ranging: from
But what is a person to do while walking the corridors of an art exhibit? Join a protest movement raging on the outside or inside of the gallery such as the Occupy Museums protests?
Art professor Daniel A. Siedall reminds us that, “Art requires contemplation that focuses attention on the viewer developing a relationship with the work of art, not merely passively receiving a message.”ii
If I’m to understand Siedall correctly, my role as viewer of art is to extend a hand of friendship to the art, inviting the art—its themes, ideas, structure, composition, and color—to converse with me, allowing for a dialogue that, Siedall continues, “Recognizes the importance of contemplation as a spiritual discipline that can underwrite and manifest itself in artistic practice.” iii
Maybe Siedall is right concerning the role of art in the protest movement: contemplation over passivity. Or maybe Sickler is correct: Folks need to stand up and say, “Enough.”
Whatever route you elect to sojourn, remember to check out your local gallery—maybe that’s protest enough in this age of unrest.
The Social Commentary and Satire from the Museum Collection exhibit runs through April 2012. The Albuquerque Museum of Art is located at 2000 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104.
i “Art and the 99%”, p. 31.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.