Protest Art: What Is It Good For?

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Faith Ringgold (b. 1930), Hate Is a Sin Flag, 2007. Photo: Robert Gerhardt and Denis Y. Suspitsyn/Digital Image © Whitney Museum of American Art

This past April, I wrote this piece for New York Magazine asking whether the fervent production and presentation of political art in the wake of Trump’s election would or could do any good — whatever good might mean — or for that matter, produce particularly good works of art.

Still, from the Vietnam war to ACT-UP, art has helped set, or reset, the broader social agenda. Right-wing meme-makers know this, and as we’ve seen recently, there are people willing to kill over the removal of monuments — which are a form of public art — dedicated to honoring the Confederacy. Given the ease of transmission of digital images, iconography is probably more potent than ever.

As Jerry Saltz has noted, there have been a number of exciting politically engaged exhibitions around New York City right now, and more coming soon. The curators at the Whitney Museum dug around in its archive to put together “An Incomplete History of Protest,” from which this slideshow is drawn. It opens August 18.

Protest Art: What Is It Good For?