Throughout much of the twentieth century, political protests and calls for action reached the public on posters and broadsides. Long before electronic technology made worldwide communication possible, graphic artists used the powerful tools of modernist art to inform communities, stir up audiences and call attention to injustice. American graphic artists, often drawing on European models developed in the 1920s to fight fascism or promote revolution, used brilliant colors and violent imagery to produce ephemeral artifacts aimed to inspire and energize the angry or disaffected. Posted on walls and bulletin boards, or slapped up on store windows and church doors, these bright, quickly produced images embodied the anger of the underclass, ultimately serving as the wallpaper of public discontent. "Art as Activism: Graphic Art from the Merrill C. Berman Collection" presents posters produced between the early 1930s and the 1970s, some by known artists, but many by unidentified designers who wanted their works to inspire political action rather than serve as decoration. Many of the best known posters date from the late 1960s and early 1970s, but their style and power have deep roots in the past and would continue to shape the imagery of protest until replaced by other forms of social media, including graffiti and ultimately the internet. Merrill C. Berman, who began acquiring graphic art and Modernist design in the 1970s, has assembled diverse holdings of political and cause-related material. Selections from his collection are frequently displayed in major exhibitions throughout the world. This Google Cultural Institute on-line exhibition represents a selection of works included in <i>Art as Activism: Graphic Art from the Merrill C. Berman Collection</i>, an exhibition organized by the New-York Historical Society where it was on view from June 26 to September 13, 2015.
This exhibition is drawn from the Merrill C. Berman Collection, one of the world's finest private collections of modern graphic art.
Curated by Stephen R. Edidin, Chief Curator and
Curator of American & European Art, New-York Historical Society.