I am interested in rebellion, especially rebellion for the greater good. I suppose it is something to do with the artist traditionally being somewhat of an outsider if not socially at least within the way they see the world. I am beginning to see my pieces as protest banners rather than flags, calls to arms in a(n art) world I’m having trouble making sense of.

One of the biggest influences on my work has always been Emory Douglas, the former Minister of Culture for The Black Panthers. He essentially art directed the entire movement through the Black Panther Newspaper and its accompanying posters that were distributed around the world. Although I have read the notes in “The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas” (one of my most prized possessions), and enjoyed his commentary on the movement in various films (most notably The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution + The Black Power Mixtape) I had never seen anything specifically about his contribution to the cause. To my surprise a split second search lead me to a lecture by the man himself from just last month at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland, USA.

Seeing the way he effortlessly reels off relevant facts and stories to do with each incredible slide (and politely asks ‘next please’ between each one) is an absolute joy. Seeing the movement purely from its art, gives a fresh and sensitive view of the what was going on behind the scenes of the Black Panthers and the other causes they supported. The illustrations in the newspaper for me belong to an art finer than fine art – he created a language that spoke loudly to people that wholeheartedly agreed there was something gravely wrong going on. I honestly believe Emory Douglas is one of the most underrated artists of our time and this lecture really gives you a sense of what a highly intelligent yet extremely humble man he is.

During the lecture he mentions the Black Panther’s support of “Boycott Lettuce” referring to the Salad bowl strike “…a series of strikes, mass pickets, boycotts and secondary boycotts that began on August 23, 1970 and led to the largest farm worker strike in U.S. history.” I got into looking for any kind of printed matter to do with the subject but was in fact lead to Forward to Freedom, A history of the British Anti Apartheid movement activity 1959 – 1994. I am always excited by these types of archives for the same reason as the above lecture was so interesting. I really enjoy and value the importance of historical events as told by their accompanying art and design. Successful protest imagery is always emotively loaded with a kind of positive aggression that spells out a need for change. Although the collection of posters and T shirts on the site is relatively small they are all great examples of how design can be successful in conveying the passion behind such a worthy cause in a concise and culturally relevant way. 

 

DANIEL FREEMAN