Globalize This!: International Graphics of Celebration and Dissent
This exhibition of political graphics, organized by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles, demonstrated the ways in which grassroots protests against globalization have used the visual arts to educate, mobilize, and inspire. On every continent and in every nation, activists and artists are speaking with clarity and coherence about a range of critical issues.
Including 39 posters from 16 countries, with images ranging from haunting to humorous, the exhibition offered a powerful reminder of worldwide struggles for peace and justice over the last twenty years. Graphic statements dealing with such issues as racism, AIDS, child labor, reproductive choice, nuclear proliferation, global warming, and the increasing indebtedness of developing nations, offered sobering messages while reclaiming the power of art to inspire people to action.
Grassroots protests against globalization, such as the one in Seattle in late 1999, have literally carried the posters on view. That graphics are central to this ongoing movement is easily understandable—in this visual age, our personal needs, political agendas, and even private emotions are driven by campaigns of calculated imagery. Turning establishment tools back on the powerful is more common than ever.
These truly international images reflect upon themselves as well as upon the established order. An army of Mona Lisas from Spain demand reproductive choice. A once anti-establishment 19th-century Manet is reinvigorated with social critique when German artist Klaus Staeck clutters up Luncheon on the Grass with 20th-century Coke cans. Japanese artist U. G. Sato transforms Gauguin's emblem of South Seas sensuality into a death mask wearing a hibiscus to protest French nuclear testing in the Pacific. An Australian poster uses the glowing colors of a seemingly innocent Hawaiian shirt to catch the viewer's eye, but reds are radioactive, and the pattern of islands they illuminate are named Marshall and Bikini. An Olympian “Call to the Youth of the World” winks that consumerism is the ultimate sporting event—the interlocking rings are logos ranging from Mercedes to McDonalds.
This exhibition was organized by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. CSPG is a non-profit, tax-exempt educational archive that collects, preserves, documents, and disseminates domestic and international political posters relating to historical and contemporary movements for peace and social justice. The archive is the basis for traveling exhibitions, lectures, publications, and workshops. CSPG is the only organization in the United States dedicated to both preserving and continually exhibiting this visual heritage to a broad audience.
The posters that were on view here, and in CSPG’s collection, are the records of the culture of resistance. They record some of the world’s darkest moments—war, genocide, nuclear destruction. But they simultaneously record humanity’s greatest gift—optimism and the commitment to struggle to make the world a better place. One does not make a poster to organize workers, defend women’s rights, or oppose nuclear testing unless there is the profound conviction that success is possible, that people can change if they are informed and inspired.
Center for the Study of Political Graphics