A Political Art Primer – Part 2

Last week, I blogged about some common terms you may come across when viewing/discussing political art. There where too many to list in a single post.


ABOVE: Sheppard Fairy, Barack Obama “Hope” poster


Misogyny – The hatred or mistrust of women, most often by men.

Narrative – A fictional or nonfictional account of connected events in a sequence of words or pictures.

Parody – An imitative work created for comic relief or ridicule.

Popular Culture – Cultural activities or commercial products that are geared to the tastes of the general population.

Race – A classification system which organizes people based upon their physical appearance or geographical lineages.

Satire – A genre that criticizes individuals, corporations, governments, or societies with humor, irony or ridicule.

Segregation – The enforced separation of people into racial groups in day to day life.

Social Construct – A social phenomenon or category that is created and developed by society, but does not exist in the world.

Socialism – A socio-economic system where the production and distribution of goods are controlled by the government instead of private enterprise.

Stereotype – An oversimplified assumption about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things.

Sustainable – A system or resource that maintains its own viability and allows for continual reuse, without depletion.

Symbol – A form, sign, or emblem that represents, stands for, or suggests an idea or emotion.

Utopian – An idea or system of political or social perfection.

A Political Art Primer – Part 1

I love art with a message. Here are some basic terms that you might come across when viewing political artworks. Part 2 to come.


ABOVE: Ministry of the Interior building with an iron mural of Ernesto Che Guevara, Havana


Bourgeois – A member of the middle class whose political, economic, and social values are thought to be determined by concern for personal wealth and perceived respectability.

Class – The grouping of people based upon economic, occupational, or social status.

Consumerism – An obsession with manufactured goods and their acquisition.

Cultural Icon – An easily recognizable symbol, object, or person with great cultural significance to a large group of people.

Culture – The customs, arts, and achievements of a nation, people or social group.

Ethnicity – A group of people with a shared culture, religion and/or language.

Feminism – A collection of movements and ideologies that advocate for equal rights between men and women.

Gender – A socially constructed identity that is assigned to a person based upon their sex.

Globalization – The shifting of views, products, and ideas from a local level to an international one.

Hegemony – The political, economical, or ideological influence of one dominant group over another.

Iconoclast – One who attacks, and seeks to overthrow settled beliefs or institutions.

Iconography – Common and/or traditional images with symbolic meanings.

Identity – The conditions and characteristics that determine one’s self.

Identity politics – The social organizing of people based upon the interests and perspectives with which they identify.

Idol – An object of worship.

Institutional critique – An inquiry into the practices of art institutions which often challenges the assumed norms of theory and practice.

The Curious Case of Carl Andre

Among the art worlds biggest mysteries, is the suspicious death of artist Ana Mendieta. Her husband, famed sculptor Carl Andre, has long been suspected of her murder.


ABOVE: Ana Mendieta, Untitled (facial hair transplant, moustache), 1972, performance

On September 8, 1985, Cuban American artist Ana Mendieta died after falling from her 34th floor apartment in New York City. Mendieta was married to minimalist sculptor Carl Andre, and shortly after her death, he was arrested and charged with her murder.

There were no witnesses to the event, but neighbors did hear the two arguing prior to her fall. Most incriminating of all though was Andre’s 911 call:

“My wife is an artist, and I’m an artist, and we had a quarrel about the fact that I was more, eh, exposed to the public than she was. And she went to the bedroom, and I went after her, and she went out the window.”

Andre’s lawyer argued that Mendieta’s death was an accident, or possible suicide, and after a three year trial, he was acquitted of her murder. This did not sit well with many in the art world, and protests against the artist have continued to this day.

Case in point:

The New York based, Dia Art Foundation recently held a retrospective of Andre’s work. Last May, protesters dumped chicken blood and guts on the sidewalk outside the building. This March, they staged a ‘group cry’ inside the gallery.

Only Carl Andre knows for sure what took place that fateful day in 1985. Here’s hoping it really was a tragic accident.

RIP Ana Mendieta.

A Few of my Favorite Isms

Art history is jam-packed with movements, schools, and isms. While the list continues to grow, here are some of my old faves. More to come.


ABOVE: Giacomo Balla, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, 1912, oil on canvas, 35.8 x 43.3 inches, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo

Ism: Futurism

Country of Origin: Italy

Timeline: An early 20th century movement founded in 1909.

Key Artists: Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, Joseph Stella, Umberto Boccioni

Philosophy: A celebration of technology and urban modernity, Futurism rejected the old for the new, and focused on movement, speed, and violence.

ABOVE: Charles Demuth, Buildings Abstraction, Lancaster, 1931, oil on board, 27.4 x 23.6 inches, Detroit Institute for the Arts, Detroit

Ism: Precisionism

Country of Origin: USA

Timeline: Emerged after WWI and rose to prominence in the 20’s and 30’s.

Key Artists: Charles Demuth, Charles Sheeler, Ralston Crawford, Stuart Davis

Philosophy: A wholly American movement with a focus on modernization and industrialization; precisionist works are often geometrical, and sharply defined.

ABOVE: George Bellows, Stag at Sharkey’s, 1909, oil on canvas, 36.2 x 48.3 inches, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland

Ism: Social Realism

Country of Origin: International

Timeline: Influenced by European artists of the late 1800’s, it emerged in the early 1900’s, and continued through the first half of the 20th Century.

Key Artists: Diego Rivera, Edward Hopper, George Bellows, Otto Dix

Philosophy: Comprised of many different styles, Social Realism explored the living conditions of the working poor, while criticizing the social structures that maintained it.