America in Revolt: The Art of Protest advocates the uprising of youth
A historic moment in American counterculture comes to London in the form of an exhibition of posters and art created by students and protestors during the Berkeley demonstrations in California in the early 1970s. Zealous and radical – protesting against American involvement in Vietnam and the Nixon administration – these artefacts are in equal parts informed by psychedelic imagery and the student uprisings of Paris in 1968. Featuring original posters and artwork created by students and activists during the landmark ‘Berkeley demonstrations’ in California the artifacts are drawn from the archive of the late publisher Felix Dennis, and curated by the revered writer and counterculture historian Barry Miles. The collection is comprised of more than 150 posters, each one capturing the incendiary spirit of that time.
While the demonstrations were initially sparked by the massacre of four unarmed student protesters at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard on May 4th, 1970, they were also a response to the reinstatement of the military draft by President Nixon, and the escalation of the Vietnam War into Cambodia.
American Flag [Untitled], 1970
The exhibition features 50 works from the Felix Dennis collection, which was recently acquired by Shapero Rare Books with each poster demonstrating the swift organisation of the student body.
Just days after the Kent State shooting, the Berkeley Political Poster Workshop, made up of art, design and political students, took over a small space donated by a sympathetic contingent of the faculty.
Here they quickly disseminated their message through an ad-hoc production line.
Posters were silkscreened onto recycled computer paper and psychedelic calendars; others went straight onto cardboard to be used immediately at demonstrations. Only a few of each of these posters were made and most did not survive, such was their immediate necessity. They are supplemented by supporting material outlining the atmosphere of unrest in America including works illustrating solidarity with Vietnamese civilians, details of American weapons, and questions over President Nixon’s integrity.
Did wer Really Come in Peace for all Mankind?, 1970
“These posters were not designed as art, but for a specific political purpose, and yet they inevitably fit into the history of graphic art, borrowing heavily from the Atelier Populaire posters of the student uprising in Paris of May 1968 and the counter-cultural posters of the period” says Barry Miles. “They are a frozen snapshot of American graphic design at the end of the sixties, as well as a unique sociological record of a society in crisis.”
America In Revolt: The Art Of Protest is on view at the Shapero Modern from February 3 to February 27, 2016.