SAN FRANCISCO, CA.-
Since its inception in September 2011, the Occupy Movement has generated both praise and condemnation and it continues to resonate in the American consciousness. In response to the significant output of art and documentation produced in support of the Occupy Movement in Oakland and San Francisco, YBCA
has put together an exhibition of works that have proven to be particularly effective in supporting the goals and aspirations of the Movement. Impressively, various political poster artists devoted their talents to messaging the politics and culture of the movement by creating iconic imagesdesigns that were a call to action, or posters announcing an upcoming event. In many ways these works, by 25 Bay Area artists, carry forward the regions long tradition as a leader in political struggles, from the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s, to struggles by communities of color in the 1970s, to AIDS activism in the 1980s. The exhibition also includes a selection of photojournalistic and documentary photography and video that serve as a record of the events around the Occupy Movement.
Theres a large community of artists and graphic designers committed to social justice in the Bay Area, and they have created amazing imagery in support of the values of the Occupy Movement, said Betti-Sue Hertz, director of visual arts at YBCA. This exhibition aims to display their work in the context of the visual culture of earlier landmark political activist movements in the Bay Area that have made significant contributions to imagining a better future for all residents of the region.
To connect to earlier movements and provide a historical context for the project, the exhibition also includes posters and photographs from other political struggles, including the Black Panther Party, I-Hotel in Manilatown (196877); the ARC/AIDS Vigil at City Hall (198595); the Occupation of Alcatraz (196971); the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley (196465); and the San Francisco State University protests, to gain an Ethnic Studies program and Black Student Union demands (196869).While these earlier movements certainly differ in ways from Occupy, they all are the result of a deep desire for marginalized peoples to be represented and treated fairly.
Amanda Verwey, development assistant at YBCA, who assisted Hertz with the exhibit, tracked down many of the local Occupy posters and their creators. "Attending actions of the Occupy Movement was the initial inspiration in my search for posters, she said. Even before I was given the opportunity to work on this exhibition I was struck by the flood of work creating a distinct visual aesthetic that was both as diverse and somehow succinct as the movement itself. Aided by invaluable organizations like Occuprint and Occupy Design, seemingly endless Twitter and Tumblr feeds, and the collaborative community of socially conscious Bay Area artists, I was able to find those pieces that had an early impact on me.
This exhibition is not meant to represent a fully executed social history, but is a testament of the power of images to evoke the emotional expression of popular and wide-spread sentiments. By localizing efforts, Occupy Bay Area also pays special tribute to the role that Bay Area artists have played in giving voice to the 99% and utilizing art as an effective vehicle for social change.