Prints in a Time of Political Madness

Protester at the Women’s March in New York on 21 January 2017 holding an Amplifier poster: Shepard Fairey, We the People—Greater than Fear (2017) (downloadable for free on the Amplifier website). Photo: Jessica He. Image courtesy of Amplifier.

Donald Trump’s unexpected Electoral College victory in the presidential election last November and the solidification of Republican control of the House of Representatives, the Senate and a majority of statehouses has triggered a wave of political activism across the country, not least in the art world. Trump’s campaign rhetoric, which dealt in xenophobia, nationalism and thinly veiled racism, sparked concerns about civil liberties before he even took office, and while as of this writing courts have blocked the most egregious of his executive orders, administration policies present imminent threats of deportation to many. On almost every front—from health care to the environment to education—his administration has pursued goals that move away from the desires of a majority of Americans and seem to refute core values of equality, fairness and tolerance.

Resistance to this agenda has taken many forms: the Women’s March on Washington, held the day after the Inauguration, drew 450,000 to 500,000 to the capital, while an estimated 5 million participated in related marches around the world. Subsequent marches have been organized in defense of everything from civil rights to science. Printmakers, whose politics typically skew to the left, have organized to provide resources and galvanize creativity as an outlet for frustration, fear and anger. Organizations and presses have held public printmaking events that serve as an entry point into grassroots organizing. The nationwide network Print Organize Protest and the Rhode Island School of Design portfolio Prints for Protest came into being as direct responses to the election; and extant organizations such as the international artists’ collective Justseeds, the not-for-profit Amplifier, the Interference Archive in Brooklyn, and Shoestring Press (also in Brooklyn) have seen increased participation, donations and media coverage.

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