Art, at least how we perceive and understand it in terms of modern and contemporary art history, is political. Even when the subject matter is not clearly related to politics, an artwork is reflective of the political context and climate in which it was created and therefore, it has been argued, is political. Going back to Modernism’s infancy, in 1857 the French painter Jean-Francois Millet, who is known for his scenes of rural life, painted his famous work The Gleaners. The work, which depicts low class workers hunched over already picked fields collecting what crop remains, made the upper class who viewed it uneasy due to its socialist nature and was considered a political statement.
The Dada art movement which started during World War I in Zurich, Switzerland was a direct response to the horrors of the war and challenged viewers to consider that if our western culture was perceived in progressive terms, where each achievement is built on the last and if the outcome was the Great War then western society itself was flawed and should be considered as such.
In the later half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, art with a political agenda has become commonplace. Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, and Carolee Schneemann all challenge accepted norms of women in society. Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, and Sherrie Levine challenge our understanding of the influencing images of advertising and capitalism. Felix Gonzalez Torres, Kiki Smith and Robert Gober force us to consider our own bodies in terms of the physical, spiritual and political. And Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, and Henry Taylor make works that consider African American culture through its own terms.
Throughout art history artists have been commenting on their political realities intentionally and unintentionally. Our current political atmosphere in Pennsylvania, and in our nation, has fueled creativity and a need to make an intentional statement for many artists. When we asked Pennsylvania artists to submit works that were created in response to the 2016 election for this exhibition, we were clear in our desire to hear from artists with all political backgrounds and ideas. The work in the exhibition reflects the views represented in the entirety of the submissions we received.
The range of topics referenced in the works is vast, including immigration, the migrant crisis, the border wall, guns, fake news, economic realities, Russia, and respectability of the office of the President to name a few. The works represent thoughtful reactions, some are subtle, while others are more obvious in their meaning. There is a wide range of media represented, showing the extraordinary ability artists have to interpret their ideas and feelings through their chosen material.
We are honored to offer a platform for artists to express themselves in relation to our current events and to present relevant exhibitions to our viewers. We hope for a dialogue to occur that opens a space for growth, understanding and empathy.
Artists Included: Alan Byrne . James Biglan . Christopher Boring . Mathew Cote . Jon Hall . Gary Henzler Allen . Patricia Hill . Karen Krieger . Perry Melat . Heidi Monterrubio . Katie Ott . Tammy Schweinhagen . Miriam Scigliano . KLSees . Nikki Serra, Sarah Simmons . Melissa Sullivan . Shawn Watrous