or activist art
refers to the signs, banners, and any other form of creative expression used by activists
to convey a particular cause or message. It is a visual action taken by social activists to make a point clear. Protest art is also used to with the intention to promote counter-thinking about the fabric of society itself. Often such art is used as part of demonstrations or acts of civil disobedience
. Some key icons in protest art have been the dove, the peace symbol
, and taunting messages.
Protest art relies on people's understanding of the symbols used in the art. Without understanding the piece is useless.
While some protest art is associated with trained and professional artists, an extensive knowledge in art is not required to take part in protest art. The most important part of protest art is element of social activism. Therefore, protest art requires most importantly a cause or an issue. Protest art can take on the form of a simple sign displaying a social message of displeasure or a large banner expressing discontent with something in particular or in general.
Often protest artists bypass the "artworld institutions and commercial gallery system" in an attempt to reach a wider audience through means that are most accessible to them. Instead of creating social activist art and displaying them only in art galleries where access is restricted to the "economically privileged", protest artists are trying to ensure their message reaches the largest number of people. Furthermore, protest art is not limited to one region or country but is rather a social activism method that is used around the world. For example, artists in South Africa during the 1990s created art using a range of media that explored memories of an integrated community that was once the heart of Cape Town.
There are many politically charged pieces of fine art - such as Picasso's Guernica, some of Norman Carlberg's Vietnam war-era work, or Susan Crile's images of torture at Abu Ghraib - which could perhaps be termed "protest art", except that they lack the easy portability and disposability often associated with protest art.
It is difficult to establish a history for protest art because many variations of it can be found throughout history. While many cases of protest art can be found during the early 1900s, like Picasso's Guernica in 1937, the last thirty years has experienced are large increase in the number of artists adopting protest art as a style to relay a message to the public.
As awareness of social justices around the world became more common among the public, an increase in protest art can be seen. Some of the most critically effective artworks of the recent period were staged outside the gallery, away from the museum and in that sense, protest art has found a different relationship to the public.
Resistance art has long been a term used to describe those that use art as a way of showing their opposition to powerholders. The term has been used to define art that opposed such powers as the German Nazi party, and the Bolshevik Revolution. The term most recently has been applied to artists opposed to apartheid in South Africa. South African resistance artists are sometimes derogatorily referred to as "township" artists, referring to the subdivisions that black citizens were forced to live in. Willie Bester
is one of South Africa's most well known artists who originally began as a resistance artist. Using materials assembled from garbage, Bester builds up surfaces into relief and then paints the surface with oil paint. His works commented on important black South African figures and aspects important to his community. South African resistance artists do not exclusively deal with race nor do they have to be from the townships. Another artist, Jane Alexander, has dealt with the atrocities of apartheid from a white perspective. Her resistance art deals with the unhealthy society that continues in post-apartheid South Africa.
"Street" protest art
Political protest in fine art