Prof. Holly Tienken’s Poster Seminar class has done some impressive topical work, Get Out The Vote posters. Here are a handful by select seniors: Cambrea Roy, Elaine Knox, Erika Mabus, Jamie Hubert, Julia Wolf, and Malachi Hall.
From the assignment sheet: ” The main objective of this project is to motivate citizens of the United States to GET OUT AND VOTE! You will design a NON PARTISAN poster—it is not about Democrats or Republicans, it is not about who is right or wrong, it is not about issues or policy, it is just about VOTING. Your poster needs to call the view to action.”
WHY HERE? WHY NOW?
According to Prof Tienken, “Sadly 18-24 year olds historically have the lowest voter turnout. Promoting the movement on a collage campus is one of the best, most direct ways to engage that audience. We are in the final days of one heck of a heated presidential campaigns, it is the perfect time to spread our message!”
Let’s hope one of these posters inspires someone extra to exercise their civic right.
If you are on the Kutztown Campus, there are more of these on display in the Sharadin Lobby Gallery. Check it out
Rachel Marie Crane Williams, PhD, was invited to Kutztown University to speak at the 6th Annual Diversity Conference. She draws comics about social issues –prison, poverty, lynch mobs. She also teaches at the University of Iowa. She has a joint appointment at the University’s School of Art and Art History and the Dept. of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies. Her flight from Iowa to Pennsylvania got cancelled (twice !) due to winter storms. It seemed she would not reach the conference. She jumped in her car drove across country. She’s unstoppable!
She raced straight from her car to our illustration class. Her artwork is informed by news, history, politics, and social practice. She shared a stack of images from her graphic novel on the Detroit Race Riots of 1943. She told us how she traveled to Detroit to do research. She obtained original news photos from The Detroit Free Press archives and transcribed contemporary interviews done by the NAACP.
Sometimes her visual essays are sponsored by organizations. The School to Prison Pipeline, for example, was done in 2011 for Jane Addams Hull House Museum, the Chicago Freedom School and Project NIA.
She talked about her work inside the Iowa Correctional Facility for Women. A student asked if she liked Orange is the New Black. She said she didn’t think much of the Netflix series, but recommended Image comic’s Bitch Planet. It’s science fiction, but somehow manages to evoke a real sense what life is like for women behind bars.
Dr. Williams asked every student in the class to give their ‘elevator pitch’ for their zine project. She gave lots of good advice. She advised cartooning students to make a font from their own handwriting. A personal font creates a far authentic match to one’s drawing style than using comic sans. There are a number of web sites that will convert your handwriting into a usable font for free. Here is one tutorial.
She also recommended the digital publishing platform ISSUU. Many of her comics and graphic essays are available on ISSUU via her website.
The pages reprinted above and below are from Black and Blue: Stories of Police Violence. This comic was distributed by Chicago’s Project NIA , part of an educational outreach project about police violence.
Lapiz = pencil. Pistola = pistol. Lapiztola is a stencil collective in Oaxaca. The pun suggests the pencil is as mighty as the pistol. Their artwork has been described a visual poetry. In October, one of Lapiztola’s crew, Yankel, was on a conference panel in Oaxaca about the city’s street art collectives. Yankel had spent much of the day on a ladder wearing a respirator mask spray-painting a luminous sparrow on a wall at Matria Art Garden a few blocks away. Another artist in the audience proclaimed his love for Lapiztola, but added compared to more radical street collectives he found their stencil murals “decorative and appropriate for restaurants.” –Decorative? OUCH!
Walls are where you find them. Yankel responded, sure, Lapiztola might accept invitations, but they would never let a restaurant owner dictate subject matter. They might even get reimbursed for their paint, but they don’t profit from their work.
Yankel talked about a piece that had appeared in MACO, the Museo Arte Contemporanea de Oaxaca. Reflejos de Huida featured a little boy and birds escaping from a cage. Their inspiration was a real boy they met on the streets who lived a life of extreme stress. Even more than most children he dreamed of escaping the confines of his domestic life.
Lapiztola’s art includes the iconic imagery of M-16’s, molotov cocktails, and skulls found in Oaxacan street art since 2006. Lapiztola, however, adds their own visual vocabulary: birds; street musicians; indigenous children. Their work often deals with street-level domestic issues like child welfare and displays a special empathy for Mexico’s children.
Rosario and Roberto are trained in graphic design, while Yankel studied architecture. Due to their mix of backgrounds the collective’s projects are both graphically crisp and site-specific, taking full advantage of a particular wall’s potential.
One of the wonderful things about stencils is how the elements can be repurposed. Below Lapiztola reused their accordion playing boy (spraying through the reverse side of the stencil) to collaborate with French artist Seth Globepainter.
Lapiztola’s artwork looks clever online. Clever is good, but in person, their large-scale visions are more than clever. They are fantastic. They have clarity, visual impact and soul.
Check out Lapiztola on Facebook and via their blog. For more info, see Jeffrey Pena’s fine interview with Lapiztola at Curbs and Stoops.
Yescka has a grand mural on a full wall in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oaxaca. It’s his take on the Last Supper re-imagined Mexico style with Narco-trafficers, cops, politicians and a stripper. I knew him when he was running around pasting his work to walls without permission, risking a beating or arrest.
I met Yescka in 2007 in Oaxaca, and know his real name. He asked me what I thought of his street name of Yescka. I said to English speakers it might sound rather feminine, like Jessica. He laughed and shrugged. I asked if it came from an indigenous language, maybe Zapotec or Mixtec? He told me he made it up from ‘calles’ (streets) backwards. I said calles backwards, sellac, would sound like “Sayack.” He told me it wasn’t exactly backwards, but syllables reversed. At the time Yescka was one of the younger members of the ASARO collective. He was often in the company of a beautiful young European woman, or two.
ASARO, the Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca, is a collective founded in 2006. ASARO’s art belongs to Mexico’s long tradition of revolutionary public art. Back in 2006, they sold woodblock prints for 100 pesos, roughly $10, in Oaxaca’s public square. ASARO’s real passion, however, was the work they give away.
Overnight they cut stencils of an arrested comrade, the next morning her portrait was sprayed all over the walls of the historic city. They would print 3ft. tall woodblock prints of goose-stepping police monsters on tissue paper. By dawn a chorus line of mutant policemen would be pasted on walls of the cathedral or Governor’s Palace. I was lucky enough to spend time with ASARO in their studio. I remember meetings where heated discussions took place. Yescka would calmly weave around the room, always painting, sketching, making collages and popping into the conversation. He made some of ASARO’s most distinctive political prints. In those days, they were unsigned.
As ASARO’s fame grew Yescka began doing more personal work. He travelled to Art Basel, to Munich and Oakland leaving a trail of street art along his route. Today he has his own studio in Oaxaca, Taller Siqueiros, named in honor of the radical 20th century Mexican muralist.
One day in the town of Azompa, near Oaxaca, collectives from across Mexico came to paint murals on the walls of the municipal basketball court. Azompa was once a small village known for green clayware; today it’s an overcrowded suburb of Oaxaca City. There was a screamo punk band playing at one end of the ballcourt. The lead singer had a head like a bull and wore tire chains over his shoulders. The municipal police roared up in pick-up trucks. Ten blue uniformed police jumped from the truckbeds brandishing clubs; some had sidearms and rifles. They told the crowd of maybe 100 that event was over. The muralists, grafiteros, stopped in mid-stroke. The punk band fled the stage. Yescka who had been stenciling at the far end of the basketball courts, strode through the crowd and took the band’s microphone.
The gist of what Yescka said was, “If our music disturbed our Azompa neighbors, we apologize, but WE WILL NOT STOP PAINTING! We will NEVER stop exercising our sacred rights to free expression guaranteed under the Mexican Constitution!” He pumped his fist in the air. “Viva Mexico! Viva la Revolucion! The Revolution Continues!”
The crowd roared in agreement. Yescka went on to say that he was thankful so many important “observers” from Mexico City from other countries were filming the event and nodded to me and cluster of French hipsters with telephoto cameras. Yescka’s speech saved the day. The police commander got on his walkie-talkie. Then he told his men to stand down. By nightfall, there were 20 new murals extending for over 100 yards along the cinderblock walls of Azompa’s ballcourts.
For more info on ASARO: Princeton University’s Library has a great collection of ASARO prints. I wrote about that collection here. If you’d like to know more about ASARO, I have several essays at Commonsense2.com. ASARO maintains a blog, that is occasionally updated. Yescka is on Facebook as Yescka Guerilla Art, here.
I am fond of Lapiztola’s work. I’ve met them, in fact they once let me hitch a ride home with them from a birthday party in the hills. Their stencils are always crisp graphic statements, often they relate to musical themes. I was not familiar with L.A. artist Retna. Retna’s blue wall at MACO (below) titled “Somos los ninos de las manos manchadas” translates as “We are the children of stained hands.”
His work resembles Arabic calligraphy. I thought Retna also painted the front of ASARO’s studio, Espacio Zapata, home to a gallery and the cafe,”Atila Del Sur.” A reader informs me it is the work of Sanez.
Dr. Lakra has an untitled mural in the exhibition. It looks to be inspired by Hollywood, Bollywood and cheap whiskey. In Lakra’s case, I prefer his simpler ‘dragon woman’ mural on a wall near Espacio Zapata.
Swoon’s project is among the largest artworks in the museum. Like many old public buildings in Mexico the museum was once church property until it was seized by the government. Swoon worked around fragments of painted wall decoration which may date from the 17th century. She turned a high-ceilinged room into a temple of intense female figures. To borrow a phrase, the walls reflect both “agony and ecstasy.” Overall, her imagery evokes a suggestion of hope. I first saw Swoon’s work on a wall in Braddock, PA. She is an inspiring artist.
Swoon’s outside murals were on prime real estate in the historic center of Oaxaca. I was told the building houses Dr. Lakra’s painting studio. Her works are woodblock prints on kraft paper which are pasted to the walls with wheatpaste. In some places they call these works “throw-ups.” The street artist can unroll the work and throw it up on a wall in a matter of minutes.
I will leave you with an image that includes art by Swoon, but it looks to be a collaboration with Retna and perhaps the blue skull is by Dr.Lakra. Next post I will share work by my old friend Yescka.
MEXICO, 1930. Before Iron Man, before Iron Giant, Mexico had TROKA. These illustrations come from the Vanguardia en Mexico exhibition at MUNAL, Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City.
The original illustrations were done in india ink by Julio Prieto in 1934. The quality of Prieto’s brushwork is evident in mural-sized reproductions of his artwork in the exhibition space. Visitors can don headphones to listen to the original TROKA radio dramas aimed at children.
The listening station is stylishly designed with wood and brass fittings to evoke the 30’s. Museum-goers seem transported by the experience.
According to the wall notes TROKA was the creation of author German List Arzubide. The giant android possessed the logic and intellegence to combat ‘religious superstition.’ …In 1939, a TROKA pantomime dance was created in which popular nursery rhymes and children’s folksongs were rewritten with rational messages. I’m paraphrasing, Spanish speakers can read the full details below.
In the 1930’s Mexico was deeply divided over the issue of religion. One little-known event that bogles the mind occured in Guanajuato. A Mexican Air Force pilot bombed the statue of Christ atop a mountain there. Some said it was pilot error. The faithful of Guanajuato built a much bigger statue which remains a pilgrimage site to this day.
Portrait of German List Arzubide by Jean Charlot, 1923. List was a true revolutionary, he rode and fought alongside Emiliano Zapata in the Mexican Revolution. He died in Mexico City in 1998 at the age of 100.
The exhibition continues at MUNAL until August 4. Viva TROKA!