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Visions of Unity: Six Visual Protests

From coalitions to exhibitions, here’s how artists and institutions are making their voices heard.

By Giada De Agostinis

How do artists stand up for what they believe in? With the rise of right-wing politics in the U.S. and Europe, people across all seven continents have felt a renewed urgency to fight for civil liberties. Though the pundits and politicians may have changed since the 1960s, many of the same issues are at stake. Now, in 2017, there are new channels with which to express dissent—easily shared on the screens, but rarely expressed by museums. As visual protests take shape internationally, they rely on the power of unity. Here are a few initiatives to keep an eye on.

Zhang Huan, 1/2 (Text), 1998 © Zhang Huan Studio and courtesy Pace Gallery

Zhang Huan, 1/2 (Text), 1998
© Zhang Huan Studio and courtesy Pace Gallery

Speech

Pace/MacGill Gallery, 32 E 57th St, New York, NY
Through April 29, 2017

Celebrating the first amendment, Speech includes works by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Jim Goldberg, Gregory Halpern, and others. Documenting historic moments, such as Peter Hujar’s Gay Liberation Front Poster Image (1970), the exhibition also includes more intimate representations of opposition, like the illuminating A Man Talking to God (1975) by Duane Michals. The work on display is a reminder not to take the pride of verbal expression for granted, and a few posters from recent protests are also included.

Bob Schutz, Clenched fists at Attica State Prison, Attica, New York, September 10, 1971 Courtesy the Associated Press

Bob Schutz, Clenched fists at Attica State Prison, Attica, New York, September 10, 1971
Courtesy the Associated Press

Power to the People

Ryerson Image Centre, 33 Gould Street, Toronto, Ontario
Through April 9, 2017

Power to the People is a series of exhibitions covering the civil rights movement from the 1960s to 2016, and exploring images and videos of protest. Attica, USA: 1971 chronicles the prison riots in western New York, where 2,200 inmates rebelled in demand of better living conditions. Also on view, Birmingham, Alabama: 1963 shows Dawoud Bey’s portraits of victims who survived the infamous bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.

Spread from Amak Mahmoodian,Shenasnameh, 2016 Courtesy 10x10 Photobooks

Spread from Amak Mahmoodian, Shenasnameh, 2016
Courtesy 10×10 Photobooks

10X10 Photobooks Awake

Through April 3, 2017

10X10, a non-profit organization committed to engaging with the photobook community, has launched an open call for photobooks, zines, and other printed materials focused on political protest. Their aim is to collect works produced with the intent of showing disaffection and dissent and to amplify the diverse voices of resistance. A selection of the submissions will be shown at the Carnegie Museum during the PGH Photo Fair in April.

EJ Hill, Surrendered (A Harrowing Descent), 2016 Courtesy The Studio Museum in Harlem

EJ Hill, Surrendered (A Harrowing Descent), 2016
Courtesy the Studio Museum in Harlem

The Window and the Breaking of the Window

Studio Museum of Harlem, 144 W 125th St, New York
Through April 2, 2017

African American artists have long participated in protests and responded to threats against their freedom, artistic and otherwise. This exhibition borrows its name from one of Pope.L’s Skin Set drawings, Black People Are the Window and the Breaking of the Window (2004), which questions the understanding of racialized language. Pulling from the permanent collection, the exhibition features works by Devin Allen, Alice Attie, Deborah Grant, Steffani Jemison, and Kerry James Marshall, among others.

Mark Titchner, Hands Off Our Revolution (detail), 2017 Courtesy Mark Titchner and Wilma Gold

Mark Titchner, Hands Off Our Revolution (detail), 2017
Courtesy Mark Titchner and Wilma Gold

Hands Off Our Revolution

February 16, 2017—Ongoing

This initiative includes more than 2,000 artists, musicians, writers, and art professionals from forty countries. Stephen Shore, Richard Misrach, Walid Raad, and Wolfgang Tillmans have already pledged their support. The project confronts the rise of right-wing populism by creating a series of contemporary art exhibition and events, the first of which will be announced in March.

Lalla Essaydi, Les Femmes du Maroc #26B, 2006 Courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery

Lalla Essaydi, Les Femmes du Maroc #26B, 2006
Courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery

Humanity Today

Jenkins Johnson Gallery, 464 Sutter St, San Francisco
Through March 11, 2017

This exhibition compresses time and space to address current concerns about civil rights. One of the earliest works on view, Gordon Park’s 1963 photograph of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech shows the National Mall flooded with protesters. More recently, in Chicago, Carlos Javier Ortiz’s provides an account on urban life and gun violence. The exhibition also includes several paintings and non-documentary photographs, such as Aida Muluneh’s contemporary take on African body art.

Giada De Agostinis is an editor and communications specialist working in publishing and branding. Her work and research extends to photography and fine art publishing as well as new digital media platforms.

 

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