The revolutionary voices of Mexico’s people that echoed through time took root in the arts and emerged as a collective force to bring about a new self-awareness and change for their nation. Mexico’s most distinguished artists set out to challenge an overpowered government, propagate social-political advancement, and reimagine a stronger, unified national identity. Following in the footsteps of political printmaker José Guadalupe Posada and the work of the Stridentist Movement, artists Leopoldo Méndez and Pablo O’Higgins were among the founders who established two major art collectives in the 1930s: Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios (LEAR) and El Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP). In 1946, artists of the TGP created twelve lithographs published in an album entitled Mexican People for the Associated American Artists (AAA) gallery in New York City.
The exhibition Artful Nature and the Legacy of Maria Sibylla Merian celebrates the skills and influences of a remarkable woman from seventeenth-century Europe. Curated by Emily Roush ’21 and Shannon Zeltmann ’21 with the guidance of Professors Kay Etheridge (Biology) and Felicia Else (Art History), Emily and Shannon selected the prints, organized them into categories, and carried out research on them, much of which was relatively obscure and would have been challenging even for graduate students.
Keira Koch ’19 examines representations of indigenous cultures in prints and photographs by American artist Andy Warhol and First Nations artist Carl Beam. In this comparative study, Koch considers the topic of appropriation and re-appropriation of Native imagery. Warhol, as a non-Indigenous artist, is using this imagery to highlight the dominant narrative of the American West. Beam, however, incorporates photographs of Native subjects and traditional narratives by re-appropriating those images to tell a distinctly Native narrative. This exhibition invites discussion about the role of contemporary indigenous artists and how indigenous identities are expressed in contemporary art. This exhibition intersects with the issues and methodologies studied in Koch’s individualized major titled “Indigenous Cultures, History and Identity.”
Leonard Baskin (1922-2000) was an American sculptor, illustrator, and printmaker. He is perhaps best known as a figurative sculptor and a creator of monumental woodcuts. The Gehenna Press, Baskin’s private press, operated for over 50 years (1942-2000) and produced more than 100 volumes of fine art books. His most prominent public commissions include sculpture for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Woodrow Wilson Memorial, both in Washington D.C., and the Holocaust Memorial in Ann Arbor, MI. Baskin received numerous honors, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Gold Medal of the National Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Jewish Cultural Achievement Award. He had many retrospective exhibitions, including those at the Smithsonian, the Albertina, and the Library of Congress. His work is in major private and public institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, and the Vatican Museums.
The exhibition Bodies in Conflict: From Gettysburg to Iraq not only conveys an ambitious geographic and historical range, but also reflects the sensitivity, ambition, and thoughtfulness of its curator, Laura Bergin ’17. In examining how the human figure is represented in prints and photographs of modern war and political conflict, Laura considers how journalistic photographs, artistic interpretations, and other visual documentation of conflict and its aftermath compare between wars and across historical periods. Specific objects include a print and photographs from the Civil War, propaganda posters from World Wars I and II, photographs and a protest poster from the Vietnam War, and a large-scale photograph of a reconstructed journalistic image of Saddam Hussein’s palace by Iraqi-born contemporary artist Wafaa Bilal. Taken together, the works in the exhibition make a profound political and humanitarian statement about suffering, heroism, death, compassion, and appeals to nationalism throughout wars over the last 150 years.
Following the Industrial Revolution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, countries such as the United States and England experienced a widening gap between the rich industrialists and the impoverished working class. As a result, poverty quickly shifted from a localized problem to a national epidemic. Each country was faced with the challenges of addressing and alleviating poverty on a national scale. With a limited amount of resources, questions arose about who should receive relief. What should it look like? How should it be administered? And how would poverty and policy affect political, economic, social and familial structures?
For my senior capstone project, I comprehensively researched the legacy of Judy Chicago and sought to bring awareness to the two Birth Project works in Gettysburg College’s collection. The thesis paper, entitled “Judy Chicago: Visions for Feminist Art,” was an opportunity to document and honor the presence of these works on campus and place them in a larger context of feminist art history. From the onset, it was my hope to curate an exhibition of the works. When I met with Chicago in the spring of 2012, her great dislike of the detached and cold “specimen-like” display of the works also prompted me to consider alternative options for the display and care of the Creation of the World #7 and Birth #4.
Enigmatic Andy Warhol claimed he had “no real point to make” in producing art. Yet, his silkscreens, sculptures, paintings, and photographs reveal the artist’s profound interest in the way art intersected with fields like advertising, fashion, film, mass culture, and underground music. In his experimentations with photography and portraiture, Warhol was fascinated with representations of both the individual and the masses and used the Polaroid portrait to illustrate the fine lines between art and popular culture, celebrity and anonymity.
The images on display for Field and Factory, political propaganda used by the Communist Party of China during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, construct a fictitious world. In perceiving these kinds of illustrations, the audience is asked either to visualize the society in its ideal form or unify in opposition to a national enemy.
Curators Andrew Egbert, Natalie Sherif, and Alexandra Ward have designed an experience that allows us to consider why these images resonated with such power for Civil War Americans. In doing so, they have shifted the gallery experience away from a truth-seeking mission, giving us instead a platform from which to move beyond questions of whether visual culture was realistic or not. They offer us a chance to explore the emotional and intellectual connections that sustained Americans long after the shouts and cheers in rushing to arms had faded.