February 2022 is LGBTQ+ month and the theme for this year is Politics in Art. This got us thinking about the significant role that politics plays in sparking creativity.
Art is an undeniably powerful, wide-reaching and disruptive tool. When it comes with a political message, it has the capacity to shift perceptions and change political and social realities. Political art can raise awareness, rouse the masses, and empower people to fight for what they believe in.
Today, we’re taking a look at the different ways art and politics have come hand-in hand over the years, and provide some examples of political art we’re proud to have at Enter Gallery.
Artistic activism – Keith Haring
Back in the 80s, when the AIDS epidemic was just getting started and no political action was being taken, it was left up to artists to raise awareness and spread messages of love, tolerance and acceptance.
One such artist was Keith Haring, who scrawled his simple designs across the New York Subway and in the process discovered that his colourful, cartoony images were the perfect medium for delivering cutting cultural commentary on issues like illicit love, drug addiction and AIDS awareness.
Take back the streets – Toxicómano and Erre
While street art tends to be considered a relatively modern movement, it’s actually been traced as far back as the Roman Empire, with people using it as a medium to make political statements, question authority and urge people to see the truth. A powerful piece of street art can efficiently convey a message while reaching a far wider audience than it would if it were confined to a gallery or museum.
Over the years, we’ve seen street artists like Banksy take his political pieces to the Gaza Strip, and the Calais Jungle, and Obey use his both his name and propaganda-style imagery to urge people to question mainstream messages.
Toxicómano and Erre are two Colombian street artists who joined Enter Gallery at the start of 2022 and whose work is charged with political sentiment. Erre’s artworks like Here We Go Again are designed to empower people to challenge the culture of machismo in Latin America - the region with the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world. Similarly, in All Cats Are Beautiful by Toxicómano – he uses pop culture icon, Top Cat, to denounce the police as an unjust system.
Anarchy in the UK - Jamie Reid
When it comes to denouncing systems of oppression, no artist is more vocal than anarchist artist, Jamie Reid - best known for his generation-defining record sleeve for The Sex Pistols. Whether he’s defacing the Queen, subverting portraiture of political figureheads like Donald Trump in God Save Us All, or raising awareness of our abuse of the planet, each piece calls upon us to reject controlling systems, and prioritise independent thought and personal freedom.
The Art of Protest - Rebecca Strickson
Look at images and footage of any protest and you’ll soon see that creativity thrives in adversity. The powerful, sometimes amusing, sometimes stark banners that protesters wield when taking to the streets have the power to shift perspectives and open minds in just one powerful statement.
Rebecca Strickson is one artist who is inspired by the design and wording of protest placards and trade union banners. In pieces like Run Riot, Strickson teams psychedelic patterns and palette with rousing typography to transport us back to the 1960s – a golden age of civil unrest and positive change.
Exposing the truth - Grayson Perry
Grayson Perry is one artist who is absolutely fearless when it comes to being himself and speaking his mind, often making political statements via intricate colourful pieces that explore the complexities of modern society.
In his bestselling book, The Descent of Man, he questioned modern masculinity and how the world would be a better place if we addressed gender inequality. In his 2020 miniseries, Grayson Perry’s Big America Road Trip, he travelled the country meeting people from the left and the right in the run up to the election and made art based on what he discovered.
His prints have also veered into political territory. In Animal Spirit, Perry explores the reckless nature and lack of accountability of stock market traders, and in Sponsored by You, we see two monstrous humans driving a flashy car fuelled by the financial loopholes exploited by the wealthy, while the world lies behind them - a scorched wasteland.
Exposing double standards - Anthony Micallef
When countries are at war, rarely does mainstream rhetoric acknowledge the atrocities committed on both sides. A number of artists have addressed this matter in their work, a prime example being Peacekeeper by Anthony Micallef – in which he explores the role of UN Peace Keepers in the world.
Via his inclusion of imagery associated from the anti-war movement of the 1970s, Micallef makes us think about what kind of ‘enforcer of peace’ should really be holding a gun.
Looking to add a piece of political art to your collection? Get in touch with one of our Art Advisors to discuss ideas.