Much of our world has changed dramatically over the past few months, inspiring many around MCAD to express their feelings about the current political climate.
In three exhibitions that are currently on view—Another Voice in the Main Gallery, A Pressing Matter in the Concourse Gallery, and Trump: Backward-Forward in Gallery 148—MCAD alumni, faculty, students, and staff comment on social justice issues of the present and past, in the United States as well as abroad.
Another Voice, curated by Patrick JB Flynn ’76, is a collection of artwork made while he served as art director of the Progressive from 1981 to 1999. A publication dedicated to discussing everything of social and political importance, the Progressive gave artists the freedom to explore their feelings and views of the issues of the times—many of which are just as relevant today as they were then. “Democracy is important at all times, and the more people are engaged the better off we are,” says Flynn.
After the November 2016 election, Director of Gallery and Exhibition Programs Kerry Morgan felt that a large portion of the MCAD population might be reeling from the terribly divisive presidential campaign and the upcoming reality of a Trump presidency. “So much of what he promised to do—and is now doing—significantly challenged the essence of civil society and threatened our democratic institutions.”
Morgan originally had different shows slated to open at MCAD in January 2017, but after President Trump won the election she decided to push them back to the summer. Just as she began to look for replacement shows, one practically fell into her lap. “Artist and curator John Schuerman called me about an exhibition of late-twentieth-century political illustration by some of the genre's most notable contributors. The curator of the exhibition, Patrick JB Flynn, also happened to be an MCAD alum,” says Morgan. “Over eighteen years Flynn commissioned hundreds of artists to create illustrations that complemented, but were never subservient to, articles about social justice, the environment, racism, corporate greed, and big oil money. And these very same issues, created two or three decades earlier, spoke directly to what was being threatened as we moved into 2017.”
SPEAK OUT! provides free postcards and stamps for people to write to their elected officials.
Lawrence Carroll, Goodbye Vietnam
Ralph Steadman, Liberty
A Pressing Matter
A Pressing Matter is a show/performance art installation run by faculty member Piotr Szyhalski and student club the People’s Library. Dominated by a massive paper roll dispenser, handmade stamps, printing stations, and print drying stations, the setup itself is a work of art. It spans the whole second floor of the Concourse Gallery and even descends to the floor of the Main Gallery.
Banner descending from the Concourse Gallery down to the Main Gallery below.
“All art is political one way or another,” says Szyhalski. “Even If I suddenly decided to only paint bouquets of flowers it would seem political somehow, because of what I am not saying, and why these flowers and not the other flowers. It’s all about context.”
All of the prints made during community printing events are hung up to dry, after which they become free to take. Szyhalski and the People’s Library just ask that they be re-hung in spaces where the messages need to be heard.
These prints are free for guests to take, display, and share.
Once Morgan had Another Voice lined up for the Main Gallery, she wanted an additional show to make the galleries a space where MCAD felt active, emboldened, and of the moment. “For the Concourse Gallery I immediately thought of inviting Piotr to install his hybrid ticker-tape/banner maker and also the People's Library to use the space as an archive of their numerous activities and as a base for printmaking activities of their choosing,” says Morgan. “Piotr and the People's Library have worked closely in the past and I knew they would be able to harness the power of print to convey the anger, disillusionment, and resolve for change that many of us were feeling.”
With the input of faculty and staff, Morgan brings shows to the Main and Concourse Galleries that support the teaching and learning that is the college's core mission. Gallery 148, however, is completely student-curated. Its current show has been curated by student Zoe Cinel.
Trump: Backward-Forward, in keeping with the political theme of the other two shows, is a reaction to Italy’s four-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and the parallels between the situation in the United States. The show exhibits artwork made by students with a variety of cultural backgrounds and contains everything from photography to film, sculpture to illustration, and varying levels of interactivity, performance, and mixed media art.
“It so happens that the first two Gallery 148 shows of this new year have contained content that one might label ‘activist’ or ‘political,’” says Morgan. “They are excellent shows.”
Piotr Szyhalski, Lit
Samantha Russell, The American Dream (Land Grab)
In the midst of political and social injustice and imbalance, one thing remains certain: MCAD and its artists are making the best of their right to free speech and are working hard to make their voices heard via their artwork, empowering themselves and setting an example of self-expression for others.
Zoe Cinel, Now you've pissed off Grandma and L'Onda
Jacob Yeates, Partisan Discourse: Carlo Ancelotti, Zackary Fisher, Mariastella Gelmini, Richard Spencer
“Art is powerful; we know that or we wouldn't be at MCAD. It can also be used as a weapon. Words and images matter. Language matters. The range of artistic expressions highlighted in all the shows testifies to that power. We can choose when and how to cultivate it, and when to deploy it. This moment is reminding me, as I hope it reminds others, that working more consciously, and in solidarity with others will help create the world we can imagine and wish to inhabit,” says Morgan.