“Revolt, Resist, Defy!”, the current exhibit in the LeRoy Neiman Gallery, highlights the long history of printmaking as a medium for political dissent through the works of contemporary artists.
The exhibit, which opened on Oct. 6, was organized and curated by Marie Tennyson, the associate director of LeRoy Neiman Center of Print Studies. It includes prints by eight professional artists: Polly Apfelbaum, Mark Dion, Barnaby Furnas, Ellen Gallagher, Brad Kahlhamer, Dinh Q. Lê, Kara Walker, and Tomas Vu. Most of these artists were sponsored by the Neiman Center to work alongside the Center’s master printer and the School of Arts’ grad students, and all of the prints displayed were produced in the Neiman Center’s print shop.
“We publish and print everything in the show,” Tennyson said. “Everything was made just behind the door in the back of the gallery.”
The Neiman Center has amassed a collection of prints by over 50 artists who have worked with the Center over the past 12 years. According to Tennyson, the works produced in the Neiman Center are collected by artistic institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.
Tennyson said the current exhibit’s theme was chosen after she browsed through the Center’s entire collection and noticed that many of the artists featured in the collection “were pissed off about something.”
“They wanted to challenge an idea, they wanted to vocalize some sort of point of view,” Tennyson said. “I wanted to bring [the prints] all together to show how a lot of artists use printmaking as a medium to express ideas.”
The exhibit begins on the right side of the gallery with a portfolio of prints called “Ssblak!Ssblak!!Ssblakallblak! Wonder#9”, by Gallagher, an American artist typically known for painting and mixed media. The portfolio is comprised of various prints with a few unifying elements: exaggerated depictions of eyes and mouths, and bits of ruled paper. Such elements, which “recall black minstrels and black hairstyles” according to the Neiman Center website, appear repeatedly throughout her prints—her way of commenting on racial stereotypes. This portfolio, along with her other works, is a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s collection.
Other notable prints in the exhibit were American conceptual artist Dion’s “Hunting Standards” and American contemporary artist Apfelbaum’s “Flags of Revolt and Defiance”. Hanging just above the door connecting the gallery and the print shop, “Hunting Standards” includes four flags of images like a bleeding boar’s head and a deer that has just been shot, a commentary on the animal heads which typically hang in hunting lodges. “Flags of Revolt and Defiance,” meanwhile, includes flags of various organizations and revolutions, such as The Black Panther Party, the Socialist Party, and the Polish Peasant Insurrection.
“What really sparked the show—the idea for the show—was Polly Apfelbaum’s ‘Flags of Revolt and Defiance,’” Tennyson said. “[Her flags are] celebrating the idea of people coming together in an organized way and protesting, revolting, or defying … which is in the spirit of the current political climate as it seems like everyone is ready to take action and speak out.”
Ultimately, Tennyson said that the use of printmaking, and art in general, can be utilized to express any emotion, not just dissent.
“I want to bring to light, to remind everyone that artists are speaking out constantly about things that they agree with and disagree with, and that art is a wonderful vehicle for expressing these ideas,” Tennyson said.
The show will continue to be on display until Nov. 2 in the LeRoy Neiman Gallery.