from emory douglas's 'the black panther'

At the New Museum, one exhibition really stood out to me far beyond the others: Emory Douglas’s litho prints. They were bright and dynamic, and shared the revolutionary aesthetic of Communist propaganda prints from the 30’s and 40’s, which in turn are heavily influenced by the flat, Japanese, Ukiyo-e prints dating back to the 17th century. As seen in my previous blog entries, I am very interested in D.I.Y., revolutionary culture, as seen in today’s stencil and paste-up graffiti (see Shepard Fairey’s work), the punk culture of the late 70’s and early 80’s, and clearly, as seen by Douglas’s work, the Civil Rights Movement. Douglas’s juxtapositions of photographic imagery to bold color and text create very in-your-face, dynamic compositions.

The only drawback to Emory Douglas’s exhibit had nothing to do with the work itself, but rather, the way it was displayed. I would have much rather seen a number of prints stacked above one another, displayed on one wall at once, with a few select prints being shown by themselves—”by themselves” meaning having ample wall space surrounding the image, separating it from the next—instead of each small piece shown one after another after another, on and on. It seemed never-ending.

As for the rest of the museum: Rigo 23’s stairwell was cool, with a lot of shock value, however, it seemed to me to only be shock value; David Goldblatt’s images were very evocative of struggle and I quite liked how each image really paid a delicate attention to the often small, fine details in the foreground; Dorothy Iannone’s pieces made me uncomfortable—not because of the eroticism in the work, but because she openly uses Indian and East-Asian aesthetics to show off her pornography. Iannone’s use of a “primitivist” art style and culture that is clearly not her own, or has anything to do with her, made her seem exploitative and colonialist.

Well, that about sums it up. I had a decent time.

-rgm

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