The exhibition Of the People at the Contemporary Wing Pop-up gallery in Washington, DC offers a group show of artists who have been influential in their political views over the past decade. Expanding beyond merely the US election and national politics, these artists tackle economic, racial, Egyptian, and gender based politics as well. Based in a temporary space scheduled for demolition, curator and gallerist Lauren Gentile has put together a dynamic show that has withstood the surge of Hurricaine Sandy and a local preoccupation with the national elections.
Included in the show are street artists who have been quite active over the years in the political realm. Shepard Fairey who made his entrance into the art world with his ersatz campaign featuring the image of Andre the Giant with the word “Obey” garnered much acclaim as well as a bit of controversy with his iconic posters of Barrack Obama featuring the words “Hope” and “Change” during the 2008 election. His recent work channels the 80s and the band the Dead Kennedy’s with images of Ronald Reagan as a symbol of corporate corruption. Also include are Egyptian street artists, that the show’s press release states were “largely credited with garnering public support and helping mobilize masses for the Arab Spring”. The Guerrilla Girls are an anonymous group of activists who have been vocal in protesting the perceived sexism in the art world especially within public institutions where male artists have traditionally received a disproportionate amount of representation.
Elizabeth Catlett who recently passed away in April of 2012 spent her career as a politically vocal artist whose works depicted the plight of African Americans throughout the US. She was born in Washington, DC to Mexican parents and later moved to Mexico where she was active in the arts communities of Mexico City and Cuernavaca.
Like the Guerrilla Girls, the Bruce High Quality Foundation is also an anonymous group. Based in Brooklyn and composed of many ex Cooper Union students, the group’s works are edgy and meant to create a public discourse as their mission statement states, ” In the spirit of the life and work of Bruce High Quality, we aspire to invest the experience of public space with wonder, to resurrect art history from the bowels of despair, and to impregnate the institutions of art with the joy of man’s desiring”.
The video work of German artist Ralf Schmerberg follows in the footsteps of Peter Joseph’s Zeitgeist: the Movie (2007) and Erik Gandini’s Surplus: Terrorized Into Being Consumers (2003) which tackle the concept of the global capitalist economy and expose its foibles and inequalities.
Of the People 2012 October 27 – November 24 at Contemporary Wing Popup