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Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement
Chester Arnold, Tailings, 1996. Oil on linen, 60 x 72 inches. Collection of the San Jose Museum of Art. Museum purchase with funds from the Council of 100.
SAN JOSE, CA.-The San Jose Museum of Art presents Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement, on view through Sunday, March 5, 2006. Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement examines the interconnected history of art and politics—topics especially relevant in our contemporary political climate. As the first extensive exhibition to address the history of art and politics in postwar America, Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement is long overdue and will make a significant contribution to American art history. The exhibition will focus on the art of the West Coast, where the interchange between art and politics has been most pronounced in the last 50 years. Since the Cold War, and escalating in the 1960s with the onset of the Vietnam War, protest politics and countercultural activities have persisted in California with vigor unparalleled in other parts of the country. The exhibition will trace the development of political art through the second half of the 20th century beginning with the 1940s and concentrating on the 1960s and early 1970s—the period of most intense political ferment. This was the moment when California became the national center of major political upheaval with international impact and long repercussions. The activities of the Civil Rights movement led to the Free Speech movement in Berkeley and spread from there. The period launched the beginning of feminism, Gay Rights, Chicano and Black Liberation, immigration issues, and environmentalism. All of this has had an enormous effect on contemporary art. From coast to coast, the country’s artists have been deeply influenced by, if not directly involved in, the many social and political causes that developed out of the 1960s and 1970s in California.

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