Labor Day parade. Photo by Paul Cockram.

Labor Day parade. Photo by Paul Cockram.

Art and activism in America

Travel journal

Alison Alder, Head of the Printmedia and Drawing Workshop at the ANU School of Art and Design, immerses herself in political art.

If you’re interested in activist graphics and political art, now is the right time to visit the United States of America. The Trump era has created a renewed focus on the power that posters and graphic materials have to highlight and propose methods of resistance to poor public policy decisions.

To get a feel for the history of protest graphics, I started my research at the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles. This immense resource holds around 85,000 posters, primarily from the United States but also from other countries including Australia.

The centre lends posters to major art venues, such as the Guggenheim and Brooklyn Museums, and other institutions across America and the world. It presents a broad range of public programs and, when I was there, was exhibiting a suite of posters in an exhibition titled To Protect and Serve: Five Decades of Posters Protesting Police Violence.

These posters were displayed in a community-managed food hall, Mercado La Paloma, funded by the city of Los Angeles to support start-up food businesses. The food stalls in Mercado La Paloma sell a mouth-watering range of primarily Latin American cuisine. For this reason, the venue enjoys extensive patronage by the whole community, including on-duty police officers needing good fast food.